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Lockeport woman with lumps in breasts faces 4-month wait for cancer test

Holly Chedd of Lockeport has to wait four months to get into the diagnostic imaging site at the Yarmouth hospital and is not allowed to try and get tested at another hospital. (CONTRIBUTED)
Holly Chedd of Lockeport has to wait four months to get into the diagnostic imaging site at the Yarmouth hospital and is not allowed to try and get tested at another hospital. (CONTRIBUTED)

A Lockeport woman has been told she must wait four months for a diagnostic test for breast cancer.

Holly Chedd, who has lumps in both breasts, was referred by her nurse practitioner to a diagnostic imaging site at the Yarmouth hospital.

Her initial appointment was for Dec. 7 but she was told Tuesday that because of staffing shortages her appointment was delayed until early February.

The mother of two was also told that she couldn’t travel to other diagnostic sites in the province.

“It’s very scary and I don’t know how many other women as well that have been cancelled because of this,” Chedd said in a phone interview Wednesday.

“I’m in Lockeport and they send you to Yarmouth. There were two (radiologists) and the lady who I spoke to . . . at the breast screening program said one of them has quit and there’s only one left.”

Chedd, 41, said her grandmother recently had both breasts removed because of cancer.

“I haven’t been diagnosed with anything yet,” she said.

“I’ve got lumps and I have to wait four months to find out if it’s breast cancer and, if it is, you’ve got four weeks to get rid of the lumps. If it’s four months to get in to get a breast exam, how long is it going to be before that lump comes out, right?”

She discovered the lumps in September and it took three weeks to get an appointment with a nurse practitioner.

Chedd’s mother contacted Queens-Shelburne MLA Kim Masland about the situation. The Conservative MLA raised the issue with Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey on Wednesday afternoon.

In an interview afterward, Masland said her concern wasn’t only with the wait time but also that Chedd couldn’t get a mammogram sooner at one of the other eight diagnostic imaging sites in the province.

“She was told she could not go to another facility to get that test done,” Masland said. “That’s my issue. We have a provincial health authority so if we have a shortage there (in Yarmouth), she should be able to go have that imaging done somewhere else and not wait 120 days.”

According to the Health and Wellness wait times website, Yarmouth patients face the longest wait times — an average 77 days — in the province. That figure is based on the April to June period so it’s not known if the Yarmouth site’s staffing situation was a factor at that point.

The shortest wait time of 11 days is in New Glasgow.

Masland said Delorey had agreed to talk with her later Wednesday afternoon about Chedd’s plight.

A Nova Scotia Health Authority spokeswoman said Wednesday it was looking into the situation in Yarmouth.

Kristen Lipscombe said five radiologists provide services in southwestern Nova Scotia and another is on sick leave. They are based at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital but also handle cases from the Shelburne and Digby hospitals.

“Two of these radiologists, who work part-time, perform breast biopsies and other specialized procedures,” Lipscombe said. “This is a reduction in radiologists who perform breast biopsies, since one of our radiologists retired late last year.”

The authority also is looking for a full-time radiologist who provides breast imaging, she said.

“Bringing wait times for all services to an acceptable level is something we are always working to achieve,” Lipscombe said, adding that patients are allowed to access services at other sites with shorter wait times.

It’s not clear why Chadd was told she could only go to Yarmouth.

Chadd, who moved to Lockeport from Perth, Ont., in 2011, works at odd jobs such as cottage cleaning and waitressing.

She said her family has had a rough time of it lately, even besides her health worries and health-system frustrations. Her son has been diagnosed with autism and also with diabetes, and her daughter also has health problems.

Her father died last month of cancer only two months after being diagnosed.

Chedd said she tries to keep calm even in the tough times and not lay blame on workers in the health-care system.

But “it’s a kick in the face when you’re told this is standard. Well it was standard at two months and now it’s two more months — that’s not standard. You get the feeling if it was a man and a testicle lump, it would be a lot faster, you know?”

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