October 18, 2016 10:09 am
Updated: October 18, 2016 10:10 am

‘Advocate for yourself’: Winnipeg woman’s message after alleged cancer misdiagnosis

WATCH: Rachel Sawka, 23, warns patients to advocate for themselves in case of a misdiagnosis.


WARNING: the following contains graphic images and descriptions

WINNIPEG — An alleged cancer misdiagnosis is raising a lot of question over patient rights in Manitoba.

In January, a doctor at Seven Oaks Hospital told Rachel Sawka, 23, that the bump on her skull was just a cyst.

While she waited for surgery to remove it, the cyst grew to the size of a baseball and constantly bled.

Three months later, a doctor finally told her it was skin cancer. After radiation began, she was also diagnosed with bone cancer.

“I couldn’t lie down in my bed it hurt so much … I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in nine months,” Sawka said.

The alleged cyst had grown in size and constantly bled.

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Sawka’s fight isn’t over yet, as she is about to face six months of chemotherapy.

“It’s awful. I would never want anyone to go through what I went through,” she said.

Sawka said the health-care system has failed her and she worries that others will face the same concerns. She also has a message for other patients.

“Advocate for yourself. Make sure you’re getting proper care and if you feel something is not right — tell them,” she said. “Do something about it. Speak out, don’t let them just pass you by.”

Laurie Thompson, with the Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety, said the health-care system can be difficult to navigate.

“It’s not the easier thing to get a second opinion,” she said.

READ MORE: Alleged missed diagnosis of cancer spurs WRHA investigation

However, having an advocate, whether it’s a family member or a friend, can make a big difference, she said. It’s important to track your health information and keep concerns front and centre and talk with you health-care provider, she added.

Patients have limited options if they disagree with their doctors. Booking an appointment with a specialist is no simple matter as general practitioners first have to give you a referral. This can be difficult as the doctor could say you do not need a specialist.

Patients who are not happy with their care, can complain to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has launched an investigation into Sawka’s case.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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