Hamilton

Radiation equipment may not have correctly targeted cervical cancer in 25 patients

Hamilton Health Sciences says radiation may not have been targeted correctly for 25 cervical cancer patients at Hamilton's Juravinski Cancer Centre who had a specific type of radiation in 2017 and 2018.

The specific treatment at Hamilton's Juravinski Cancer Centre has been paused

Hamilton Health Sciences says radiation may not have been targeted correctly for 25 cervical cancer patients at Hamilton's Juravinski Cancer Centre who had a specific type of radiation in 2017 and 2018. (Hamilton Health Sciences)

The Juravinski Cancer Centre says 25 cervical cancer patients may not have received radiation in the exact location where it was intended due to the wrong length of equipment used for treatment.

The announcement impacts cervical cancer patients who had a specific form of radiation therapy called brachytherapy, or BT, at the Juravinski Cancer Centre in 2017 and 2018.

The incorrect length of a "guide tube" in the BT equipment means that radiation may not have been delivered on the exact point where it was intended, Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) said in a media release.

HHS has replaced the BT equipment and paused the specific therapy at the JCC.

'We have apologized'

The cancer centre says staff and physicians have met with all women who may have been affected, and has put "proactive and expedited" care plans in place to monitor the women closely over the coming weeks.

"We have apologized to all the patients regarding this matter. We also understand the anxiety this likely causes them and their families," said president and chief executive officer Rob MacIsaac in a media release.

"Our physicians, nurses and the other members of our teams at the JCC, and across HHS, care deeply about our patients and are distraught that patients might be affected. We are working diligently to ensure the integrity of our services moving forward."

The issue was discovered Nov. 27, but the cause of the issue has not been identified, says HHS.

"Once known, the results of the review will guide the strengthening of our quality assurance and help restore the trust of our patients in the care we provide," read Wednesday's HHS release.

The equipment

The equipment features tubes to position radiation internally on a very precise area. The length of one of the guide tubes used to deliver radiation to the cervix was longer than it should have been.

HHS says external experts will conduct a review of their radiation therapy program.

While the review is being conducted, new cervical cancer patients needing BT will be transferred to the London Regional Cancer Centre.

Ralph Meyer, vice president of oncology and palliative care and regional vice president of Cancer Care Ontario told CBC News that it's a relatively small number, about 8 to 15 a year who will need to receive care in London. 

"This will be until they complete an external review of our program to ensure ourselves, our community that the issues we addressed were an aberration and they don't represent other issues that we need to address in a quality way around our program."

It says no other patients at the JCC are affected.

"This was an unfortunate and rare occurrence and we apologize to our patients. It is isolated to an issue with the equipment only used for BT for cervical cancer patients," said the release.

"We have informed all patients involved in this matter and apologized to them and their families. We deeply regret that this occurred. Everyone at the JCC is committed to providing treatment that is effective and safe. We will evaluate our processes thoroughly and remedy any gaps in our care," said Meyer in a release.

With files from Laura Clementson