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Frequently Asked Questions

At the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency your care is important to us. We appreciate that waiting for your first consultation can be difficult. We hope that the following questions will be helpful to you in understanding wait times.

What is a wait time?

A wait time is how long an individual waits for an appointment or treatment. It is calculated from the time the service is booked in the cancer centre until it actually occurs. Cancer treatment involves a series of steps, with intervals between treatment events (an example of a treatment event is the first appointment with an oncologist). Each of these intervals has a wait time, such as the wait from when your family doctor or specialist refers you to the cancer centre until you are seen by the oncologist.

Who goes on the cancer treatment wait list?

Only those patients who have been referred to the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency by a family physician or specialist or who have been referred from one type of cancer specialist to another (e.g., medical oncology to radiation oncology) are placed on a wait list. Patients who have not agreed to be treated do not go on a wait list. Click here for more information about referrals.

Can you tell me how long I will have to wait for an appointment?

It may be difficult to provide you with the amount of time you will have to wait for your appointment as wait times vary depending on the type of care needed, the urgency and need for care, patient factors such as clinical condition and system issues such as availability of health providers or equipment. The wait list also takes into account patients needing urgent or emergent treatment. Patients needing urgent or emergent treatment, as determined by an oncologist, will receive it as required. There are no wait times for emergency situations.

What if I think my condition is getting worse while I am waiting?

If your condition changes while you are waiting, consult your family doctor or referring physician.

Can I get care sooner if I go somewhere else?

You will find that wait times exist in the healthcare system throughout Canada and in other countries as well. Your family doctor or surgeon can make a referral for you to go out of province for an appointment. If you see an oncologist out of province you will stay on the Agency’s wait list as we cannot begin transfer of treatment until you have had a new patient consultation with an Agency oncologist to review the suggested treatment course.

Occasionally patients may be referred out of country for treatment which cannot be provided in Canada, but prior approval from the Ministry of Health must be obtained. With prior approval, medical costs will be covered, but the cost of travel and accommodations remain the responsibility of the patient. Without prior approval from the Ministry of Health, none of the costs will be covered and the entire financial burden will be the patient’s.

Are there ways you can help me while I am waiting for my first appointment?

We recognize that a cancer diagnosis is very stressful for patients and family members. The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency can provide you with a range of support - from an orientation of the services at the cancer centre to in-depth counseling to deal with cancer and its treatment.

Clinical oncology social workers at the cancer centres are available to help patients deal with anxiety about their disease and waiting times, or make referrals to the many community support services available for symptom management.

How can I find out more information on my specific type of cancer?

All newly-referred patients will receive a phone call from a patient access coordinator who will provide them with general information. Information is also available at the Patient Resource Centres, located within the Allan Blair Cancer Centre and Saskatoon Cancer Centre, and under Patient, Family & Friends.

What should I do if I have a concern?

If you have questions or concern regarding the care or treatment you received, please speak to the member of your cancer care team who can best help. The quality of your care will not be affected if you raise a concern. Your cancer care team is in place to help you.

If you are unable to resolve your concern, the Quality of Care Coordinator may be able to help. You can reach the QCC at 1-866-577-6489 or qcc@saskcancer.ca.

Click for more information on wait times.