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Alberta breast cancer patients experiencing improved care

November 14, 2018

AHS initiative reduces wait time for treatment, increases same-day mastectomies

EDMONTON — Breast cancer patients are getting referred and treated more quickly according to new statistics released today by Alberta Health Services (AHS).

Over the past two years, the wait time between a highly suspicious breast cancer diagnostic finding and referral to a breast program has been reduced: in Calgary from 22.2 days to 7.5 days, a 66 per cent improvement, and in Edmonton from 14.1 days to 9.3 days, a 34 per cent improvement.

Over the same two-year period, AHS has nearly doubled the percentage of same-day mastectomies in the province, from 22 per cent to 41 per cent.

“Our government is committed to helping Albertans who are facing cancer, and that includes supporting every effort to find cancers early when treatment is most effective,” says Sarah Hoffman, Alberta’s Minister of Health. “This initiative is working. The significant improvements in wait times means better care and more peace of mind for patients and their loved ones. The ultimate goal for all of us is to see fewer Albertans diagnosed with cancer in the future.”

“This is another outstanding example of how our Strategic Clinical Networks are driving innovation in Alberta, enhancing the quality of care we provide to patients and improving the efficiency and sustainability of our health system,” adds AHS President and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu.

Dr. Doug Stewart, Senior Medical Director of the AHS Cancer Strategic Clinical Network (SCN), credits the SCN’s Provincial Breast Health Initiative and implementation of its Diagnostic Assessment and Same-Day Mastectomy pathways for the improved care that patients with breast cancer are receiving.

“Improvements in the time to referral to the breast program were achieved by notifying both primary care offices and breast surgeon’s offices of suspicious findings with standardized clinical recommendations,” says Dr. Stewart. “Patients also receive nursing support and navigation during a time of considerable distress and anxiety.”

The Same-Day Mastectomy Pathway has resulted in multiple benefits to patients and the overall system, adds Dr. May Lynn Quan, Medical Lead South, Provincial Breast Health Initiative.

“This work means that rather than stay overnight in hospital, more mastectomy patients are returning to the comfort of their own home the same day as their breast cancer surgery,” says Dr. Quan. “It also means hospital beds previously used for mastectomy recovery are now open for other patients who need inpatient care.”

New educational materials have been created to help patients before and after surgery to manage at home, exercise for recovery, and recognize what normal issues may arise after surgery and potential complications that may need medical attention. These materials are available in print and online at

Minister Hoffman recently proclaimed October ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month.’

“Acknowledgement of Breast Cancer Awareness in the legislature last month not only helps us to raise awareness and build understanding about its impacts, it also helps advance breast cancer research and educate patients, caregivers, professionals and policy-makers,” says Dr. Quan.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

For media inquiries, contact:

Kristin Whitworth
AHS Communications