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Nunavut’s first cancer treatment follow-up clinic

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This novelty allows these patients to avoid having to travel thousands of kilometers to the south of the country for follow-up.

This is the case of Eliyah King, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2020. For two years, he has been traveling for long months to Ottawa with his wife, because there are few oncologists, specialists of cancer, in the North.

The first time the couple had to travel for treatment, they left Nunavut in December and did not return until May.

It’s horrible, because we have to leave our families, our families […] our furry baby. And this dog is the shadow of Eliyah, they do everything togetherexplains Ellen King.

A man on his sofa with his dog smiles at the camera.

Eliyah King and the one he calls his furry baby, Krug.

Photo: Courtesy of Ellen King

This week, however, the stress of cancer treatments is starting to ease somewhat, as the first cancer clinic begins to see patients in Iqaluit.

It’s like having an in-person patient support line at the hospital.says Ellen King.

Marc Gaudet, the head of the radiation oncology unit at the Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa has been working for a few months with Dr. Gad Perry, another oncologist, in order to ensure a physical presence on the ground for cancer patients in Nunavut.

In Iqaluit, since Monday, they have been receiving people who have received a new diagnosis of cancer or who are being followed after their cancer treatments. They do not, however, offer chemotherapy, which always requires a trip south.

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The team includes staff from The Ottawa Hospital’s Aboriginal Cancer Program, including its Clinical Director and Aboriginal Nurse Navigator.

A group of people pose smiling in front of the Iqaluit hospital.

The Ottawa Hospital team in charge of the cancer care follow-up clinic at Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit. From left to right: Gwen Barton, Dr. Tim Asmis, Julie Renaud, Dr. Gad Perry and Dr. Marc Gaudet.

Photo: Courtesy of The Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Gaudet says he has experience in other outreach clinics outside of Ottawa, particularly in northern Quebec.

The advantage of being in the field [au Nunavut]is that we know who to contact in Ottawa if there are very specific things to settle.

According to Dr. Gaudet, the clinic is part of a relationship that has been built up over many years and which he describes as springboard towards access to more care in the North.

He says that during the pandemic, several patients were able to receive some form of cancer treatment at home in Nunavut. He hopes that the clinic will continue on this path and praises the good relationship of his team with the Qikiqtani Hospital.

It’s a long process to put all these protocols in place and train everyone in the right way so that it’s as safe to do this in the North as it is to do it in Ottawa, explains Dr. Gaudet. The fact that we travel up north regularly will help us build those relationships and ensure that we can provide training when we are there.

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He also hopes that a local clinic will improve diagnosis for Nunavummiut suffering from cancer.

Two masked people side by side giving thumbs up.

Eliyah King and his oncologist, Dr. Rachel Goodwin. The photo was taken on June 27 when Dr. Goodwin allowed Liyah King to return to Nunavut from Ottawa.

Photo: Courtesy of Ellen King

One of the challenges he has observed in the North with diagnosing cancers is that patients come to doctors at a more advanced stage of the disease, in part because of problems accessing health care services. health.

And, of course, there is the stress of having to travel south for treatment.

Eliyah King is relieved on this level even if he greatly appreciates his oncologist in Ottawa, as his wife explains.

The fact that he is at home, that he can sleep when he wants and that I can cook him whatever he wants. […] He can also go on land.

It’s just better to be home.

With information from Cindy Alorut

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