Calgary

One-stop thyroid cancer clinic goal of Calgary doctors as rates increase

As thyroid cancer rates increase — over the last 29 years rates in Canadian women have more than quadrupled — doctors in Alberta are looking for ways to improve treatment.

Rates for Canadian women have more than quadrupled in 29 years

Calgary physicians are trying to set up a multidisciplinary thyroid cancer clinic in the old Calgary children's hospital on 17th Avenue S.W. to improve care for patients. (Sheryl Nader/Canadian Press)

As thyroid cancer rates increase — over the last 29 years rates in Canadian women have more than quadrupled — doctors in Alberta are looking for ways to improve treatment.

Experts say the type of cancer is curable in most people but patients require ongoing care and follow-up.

Dr. Jeffrey Harris, a surgical oncologist who teaches at the University of Alberta, says the increase could be in part due to technological advances.

"We're probably detecting more of those thyroid cancers simply because of improved detection techniques … but there probably is a real increase in a thyroid cancer."

Centralize care

As researchers grapple with the increased rates, a group of doctors in Calgary have been quietly pushing to centralize care for people in southern Alberta.

"It tends to be more dispersed and patients spend more time travelling between different providers and different sites," Harris explained.

Dr. Dean Ruether is a medical oncologist based in Calgary. He says the growing numbers increase pressure on the system.

One stop approach

Ruether and others are trying to set up a multidisciplinary thyroid cancer clinic in the old children's hospital on 17th Avenue S.W. in Calgary, kind of a one-stop-shopping approach, similar to one in Edmonton that's been in place for about 15 years.

"A centralized way of addressing that common problem would do a lot to deal with fragmented care, delays for patients in getting to the appropriate provider," Ruether said.

The doctors are now waiting to hear if they'll get funding and they are optimistically hoping to have a clinic up and running within a few months.

With files from the CBC's Jennifer Lee

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