The approximately 3,500 patients who relied on results of CT scans and mammograms conducted by Trillium Health now called into question have every right to be both worried and outraged. Canadians trust that mammography and CT scans will help them learn whether they are in good health or whether an abnormal scan requires further investigation, leading to an early diagnosis and treatment of cancer with better outcomes.
“When I have a mammogram and then get that letter saying everything is fine and I don’t need to come back for two years, I believe that everything is okay and that I don’t have cancer,” said Jackie Manthorne, president and CEO of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network. “It would be devastating to be told that my mammogram was not read correctly and to lose that sense of assurance and trust in mammography, which is our only mass breast cancer screening program in every province in Canada.”
This is not the first time that the results of mammography screenings or pathology tests have had to be reviewed:
- In 2010, the College of Physicians of Quebec ordered an investigation of 15,000 mammograms performed in Montreal and Laval, which showed that thousands of Quebec women might have been given inaccurate results.
- In 2005, Eastern Health Pathology Lab in Newfoundland and Labrador, faulty pathology tests over an eight-year period resulted in 400 breast cancer breast cancer patients receiving the wrong treatment; over 100 of these women died. The resulting judicial inquiry by Justice Margaret Cameron and her subsequent report stated that Eastern Health failed patients with shoddy lab work and nearly non-existent quality controls.
- In 2009, hundreds of Quebec women diagnosed with breast cancer may have received the wrong treatment because of inaccurate pathology tests.
Faulty diagnosis or incorrect pathology tests can lead to onerous consequences, from the diagnosis of cancer at a more advanced stage, resulting in increased level of treatment, to an increased risk of recurrence, or the development of metastases, where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, which often results in a reduced quality of life and treatment which last a lifetime.
Canadians deserve better. The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network calls on provincial and territorial screening programs and hospital and cancer centres to ensure supervision and oversight of cancer screening program staff and that Canadian and provincial/territorial associations of radiologists and pathologists ensure that their members receive regular professional evaluations development opportunities.
To arrange interviews or for additional information: Jackie Manthorne, President & CEO, Canadian Cancer Survivor Network. 613-898-1871 or 613-710-3636 or firstname.lastname@example.org.