‘Advocate for yourself’ Winnipeg woman’s message after alleged cancer misdiagnosis

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    WARNING: the following contains graphic images and descriptions

    WINNIPEG — An alleged cancer misdiagnosis is raising a lot of question over patient rights in Manitoba.

    In January, a doctor at Seven Oaks Hospital told Rachel Sawka, 23, that the bump on her skull was just a cyst.

    While she waited for surgery to remove it, the cyst grew to the size of a baseball and constantly bled.

    Three months later, a doctor finally told her it was skin cancer. After radiation began, she was also diagnosed with bone cancer.

    “I couldn’t lie down in my bed it hurt so much … I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in nine months,” Sawka said.

    The alleged cyst had grown in size and constantly bled.

    Sawka’s fight isn’t over yet, as she is about to face six months of chemotherapy.

    “It’s awful. I would never want anyone to go through what I went through,” she said.

    Sawka said the health-care system has failed her and she worries that others will face the same concerns. She also has a message for other patients.

    “Advocate for yourself. Make sure you’re getting proper care and if you feel something is not right — tell them,” she said. “Do something about it. Speak out, don’t let them just pass you by.”

    Laurie Thompson, with the Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety, said the health-care system can be difficult to navigate.

    “It’s not the easier thing to get a second opinion,” she said.

    READ MORE: Alleged missed diagnosis of cancer spurs WRHA investigation

    However, having an advocate, whether it’s a family member or a friend, can make a big difference, she said. It’s important to track your health information and keep concerns front and centre and talk with you health-care provider, she added.

    Patients have limited options if they disagree with their doctors. Booking an appointment with a specialist is no simple matter as general practitioners first have to give you a referral. This can be difficult as the doctor could say you do not need a specialist.

    Patients who are not happy with their care, can complain to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

    Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has launched an investigation into Sawka’s case.