Imagine being diagnosed with early-stage kidney cancer and finding out that you qualify for a non-surgical minor procedure to treat it.
Then, imagine being told that doctors in your region have to remove your entire kidney because they aren’t trained to perform that type of treatment.
It’s the fate one man living in the Laurentian town of St-Come was facing until Global News stepped in.
“You’re stuck and you wait and you wait and every day you wait, you get more and more anxious and it’s a panic situation,” Shane Kavanagh said.
The 71-year-old and his wife are trying to focus on the future, but the constant worrying and waiting are taking its toll.
“It was very hard, I’m sorry I can’t stop crying when I think about it,” Rosemary Kavanagh said. Her husband was just diagnosed with kidney cancer. He was told two months ago that his tumour is small enough to qualify for a local tumour ablation (LTA) instead of surgery.
“I know a urologist in Ontario that was willing to do the operation immediately, which he said I needed,” he told Global News.
RAMQ refused Kavanagh’s request for out-of-province treatment, claiming LTA is available in Quebec. But according to Kavanagh, the local urologist he was referred to admitted that he wasn’t able to perform the procedure.
“When I asked him to send me on to another physician that will do this, ‘No,’ he was determined to remove my kidney,” Kavanagh said.
It’s hard to tell exactly how many patients are unnecessarily getting their entire kidney removed but it is happening.
“There’s always a concern that patients are seen at clinics or institutions that don’t have access to all necessary procedures for their given condition and that includes small renal masses where an LTA is applicable,” CHUM urologic oncologist Dr. Pierre Karakiewicz said.
A survey conducted by a team of urologists in 2015 revealed that 44 per cent of urologists in Canada don’t have access to LTA, a procedure that needs to be performed by a radiologist. Urologists who work in large city centres or teaching hospitals have a wider range of treatment options.
“It’s always our mission at tertiary care centres, University hospitals to educate our peers, that is, the urologists in the community setting, about the availability and indications for novel procedures,” Karakiewicz said.
Global News reached out to Quebec’s health and social services ministry last week and within days, Kavanagh finally got his long-awaited appointment with an MUHC specialist who does perform LTA.
A spokesperson for the health minister told Global News that the timing is a coincidence but the Kavanaghs aren’t convinced.
“Two months, I didn’t get anywhere with anything, and two days after you spoke to them, I have an appointment,” he said. “I believe you might have saved my life.”
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