Surrey prostate cancer patient seeks treatment in Ontario, calls B.C. system ‘flawed’

Click to play video: 'B.C. man with prostate cancer says health-care system failing him'
B.C. man with prostate cancer says health-care system failing him
A B.C. man who is battling prostate cancer says the province's medical system is letting him down. As Julie Nolin reports, he's travelling to Ontario to get access to the treatment he needs – Feb 8, 2023

A B.C. man who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 is heading out of province to receive what he hopes will be his final treatments.

Surrey resident Dan McMurdo, 69, has been battling prostate cancer for more than six years.

He said the prostate cancer treatment system with B.C. is flawed as he was presented with only two options by medical professionals. He either had to choose to get his prostate removed or to get full radiation treatment.

“They say all the right stuff on the news and I’ve heard the health minister bring it up over and over again saying ‘we are doing this and we are doing that.’” McMurdo told Global News.

“It’s not being done. There is no way I should have to go to (Ontario) to get an MRI. They can do an MRI (there) with a maximum wait time of one month and the same for a biopsy — it could be a year before I get a biopsy (here).”

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McMurdo said after doing some research, he decided not to choose either treatment option offered in B.C. — he said the side effects of either option were not something he wanted to go through.

He then found an alternative treatment named high-intensity focal ultrasound treatment, or HIFU for short.

“Basically, what they do is they use a sonablate machine and a high-intensity beam of light targets the tumour,” he said.

Unfortunately, HIFU treatment for McMurdo was not covered by B.C. medical. He paid out of pocket and had it done in Toronto in 2020.

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The severity of prostate cancer is tracked by doctors through a blood test called Prostate-Specific Antigen test or PSA for short.

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McMurdo said before he started his HIFU treatment, his PSA level was around 10.6.

After three months of HIFU treatment, he said his PSA dropped to 2.9 — a drastic improvement.

HIFU treatment is extremely expensive, and McMurdo said he paid more than $20,000 for the procedures.

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Fast forward to 2023, and McMurdo said his PSA levels are steadily climbing again. He will need to go to Ottawa to receive Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy to address his rising levels.

“With cancer, you can’t wait on it,” McMurdo said. “You have to act on it, you have to find out from the MRI and biopsy.”

On Wednesday, Global News asked health minister Adrian Dix for comment.

“We do provide substantial treatment for prostate cancer here. Our researchers and teams at BC Cancer are leaders in Canada in terms of prostate cancer research. They are always looking for new ways to avoid side effects and to provide better care.

“I can’t talk about the specific case. It may be the patient wants treatment they aren’t providing, but BC Cancer provides excellent care and that’s what we are going to continue to offer.”

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According to the B.C. Health Ministry, 90 per cent of prostate surgeries are completed within 27 weeks.

BC Cancer referred to Adrian Dix’s comments when asked for an interview but also did respond with an emailed statement.

“BC Cancer is committed to providing patients access to timely, high-quality and person-centered cancer care,” staff said.
“We do not publicly discuss the specific details of individual cases due to patient privacy, however, our medical staff regularly work with patients to discuss all available treatment options and develop a care plan taking into account patient needs and preferences.”

Murdo, however, refutes the notion that B.C. is providing excellent care for prostate patients. He said he believes HIFU should be an option for British Columbians.

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