Saskatoon

Ovarian cancer patients planning to meet Sask. health minister as specialist shortage looms

A group of ovarian cancer patients is planning to meet Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter Tuesday.

Meeting comes as province grapples with departure of 3 gynecological cancer specialists

Kimberly MacKinnon hopes new specialists will be found to replace those caring for her and other ovarian cancer patients in Saskatchewan. (Jason Warick)

A group of ovarian cancer patients is headed to Regina to meet Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter as the province prepares to lose three highly-specialized cancer doctors.

Saskatoon is about to lose its only two gynecological oncologists and Regina is also losing one.

Kimberly MacKinnon has ovarian cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. The Saskatoon-area woman said ovarian cancer care has been a low priority for the provincial government.

"It feels like someone opened a trap door beneath me and let me kind of fall through," she said. 

"My main concern is for my daughters who are at risk of this disease, my young granddaughter, and all of the women coming up behind me."

Ovarian cancer the most deadly for women

Stephanie Gosselin, Saskatchewan and Manitoba regional director for Ovarian Cancer Canada will be one of those making the trip to Regina to meet Reiter.

She said she's hopeful something can be done about the impending shortage. She notes that ovarian cancer is the most deadly cancer for women, with a 56 per cent fatality rate within five years.

She'd like to see a dedicated $10-million national research fund dedicated to ovarian cancer. That would still be a fraction of the amount spent researching breast, prostate or other cancers.

"Now is the time," she said.

A Saskatchewan Health Authority official said in a statement they are aggressively recruiting replacements. Other "locum" specialists will fill-in, in the short term.

There are fellowships, interest-free loans and other incentives tied to serving for a certain time period. There are also large financial supports for students wishing to take the training to become gynecological oncologists in exchange for a service commitment after graduating.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story referred to cervical cancer being Canada's most fatal women's cancer. In fact, ovarian cancer is the most deadly form of the disease among women. An earlier version stated the fatality rate within five years is 57 per cent. It is in fact 56 per cent.
    Nov 19, 2018 9:41 PM CT

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