ALBERTA

Alberta Patients Face Frustrating Waits After Province's Only Cyclotron Breaks

10/22/2015 03:26 EDT | Updated 10/22/2015 03:59 EDT
TRIUMF Lab/Flickr
Photo courtesy NSERC 2015.

Dozens of Alberta patients are dealing with frustrating waits after Alberta's only cyclotron machine broke down for the second time.

The device creates dye needed for important PET and CT scans, which are used to diagnose cancer, epilepsy, dementia and heart disease. This particular machine is 13 years into its 20-year life cycle.

Erica Malanchuk waited anxiously for months to find out if she needs more chemotherapy. The Calgary woman is fighting stage three cervical cancer, and has been bumped from her appointment three times, according to CBC News.

"What frustrates me is that if my scans come back and say, yes, my cancer has spread. In those two months, could we have done something? Could we have done more chemo or surgery to stop it?" Malanchuk told CBC.

The machine, located at Edmonton's Cross Cancer Institute, first broke down on Sept. 28, resulting in the cancellation of 180 exams. Now, it's sitting idle again, after a shutdown on Oct. 14, forcing tests to be rescheduled for another 69 patients.

Right now, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is bringing in dye from other provinces to get in what exams they can.

“We want to sincerely apologize to patients and their families for the angst this has caused and the delays,” Mauro Chies, the chief program officer for clinical support services at AHS, told the Edmonton Sun.

“I know this is causing stress and anxiety, and we’re doing everything we can.”

Advocacy groups are extremely concerned about the delays, and the possibility that the machine might break down again once it's up and running.

“This is unacceptable. This is a critical care issue, we are talking about people’s lives,” said Rick Lundy, founder of the Open Arms Patient Advocacy Society, in an interview with the Calgary Herald.

“Where is the contingency plan? This is a machine used for so many people, for all stages of cancer. It’s very valuable, and when it breaks down, we need to ensure the same level of care is still provided.”

AHS is working on a feasibility study to determine if a second machine can be added to Calgary's Tom Baker Cancer Centre.

The machine could cost between $5 and $10 million, News Talk 770 reported.

With files from The Canadian Press

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