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Cancer treatment long wait a 'death sentence,' says B.C. patient Scott Dobbie

03/27/2015 12:28 EDT | Updated 05/26/2015 05:59 EDT
A North Vancouver cancer patient is furious he's been told he's facing a four-week wait before he can start treatment, even though the BC Cancer agency says patients should be seen within two weeks.

Scott Dobbie blames the provincial government for what he believes is a backlog of patients needing treatment. The 61-year-old says he thought he would be seen quickly, given that pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers in Canada. 

"This is basically a death sentence," he said. "It's outrageous, it's unconscionable to have our system in this kind of state." 

B.C.'s Health Minister Terry Lake says cancer patients should not have to wait more than two weeks for treatment.

"When you have a situation when someone is waiting that long, it is a concern for us and I know that BC Cancer Agency is working hard to make sure that those cases are in fact seen much sooner than that," he said.

Lake made those remarks after CBC's reporting into long wait times, but there is a discrepancy between what health officials say and what patients are being told. 

Dobbie says doctors discovered a tumour on his pancreas on February 24.

When he got confirmation it was malignant on Monday, a nurse told him he needed chemotherapy to shrink the tumour before doctors can try and surgically remove it. 

He says that's when the nurse told him it would likely be four weeks before he can see a oncologist.

"My reaction was like, 'What are you talking about ... why can't I go now?'" he said. 

"I asked if it is because of the capacity of the system and she basically said,'Yes, that's the capacity of the system and that's the way it is.'

"It's a very virulent disease and can metastasize at any time, and will likely metastasize and without timely treatment cause my demise."

According to Pancreatic Cancer Canada, Dobbie's type of cancer has the highest mortality rate of all the major cancers in Canada.

Approximately 92 per cent of patients die within five years of diagnosis and 75 per cent of patients die within the first year.

Cancer agency: Unlikely treatment would take 4 weeks

Dobbie says he called the BC Cancer Agency and was told there was a long line of patients waiting.

The agency, however, says the wait for treatment of pancreatic cancer is typically two weeks, not four and had no explanation why Dobbie was told the wait could be four weeks.

"In a situation where someone is awaiting to receive chemotherapy, I think it would be very unlikely that it would be that time frame," said Dr. Daniel Renouf, an oncologist who specializes in pancreatic cancer at the agency.

Renouf is the oncologist Dobbie is waiting to see, but he would not discuss his specific case.

However, he did say the agency is working hard to see patients quickly.

"It is a cancer where we want people to have their treatment as soon as possible...It goes through our triage group very frequently. It's moved up to a much sooner timeframe."

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