During Blue September, the annual awareness and fundraising month for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, The Ensign chief reporter Sandy Eggleston talks to Steven Hoffman about his experience with the disease and how important it is not to let time pass without hearing from health professionals.
“Time’s a killer… pick the phone up” is Steven Hoffman’s advice for anyone with health concerns.
The Gore man developed secondary lung cancer because of a lengthy delay in his prostate cancer being detected and treated.
Last year, the Southern District Health Board sent apology letters to Mr Hoffman and three other patients whose cases were highlighted in a health and disability commissioner’s report investigating 38 complaints concerning the SDHB urology department.
Mr Hoffman said there was a costly delay between when he went to the doctor in September 2016 to when his prostate was removed in July 2017.
“Because of time, it was just a big festered tumour.”
In 2016, after seeing his doctor, he went to a triage appointment at Dunedin Hospital.
He was then sent a letter advising him it would be 12 weeks before he would see a specialist.
In hindsight, he should have reacted differently to the letter because with the time lost over the Christmas break, it was five months before he saw the specialist.
“We went along with the 12-week thing, which we shouldn’t have. We should have been on the phone.”
When Mr Hoffman saw the specialist in February he was advised he needed a biopsy which was supposed to happen two to five weeks later.
When he had not heard from the hospital after two weeks, he rang to find out the date of his appointment, but there was no record of him being booked in.
“They didn’t even have me in the system.”
The receptionist gave him an appointment for 17 weeks later, but after he protested his appointment was scheduled for seven weeks later.
If he waited 17 weeks the outcome would have been different – “I’d be dead”.
If his prostate had been removed in the two months after he first went to the doctor, the secondary cancer would not have grown.
“It’s all a time thing.”
His experience provided a valuable lesson for anyone who was feeling uneasy about the level of attention they were receiving in the health system.
“The message in all of this, all the way through is, phone up and ring, pick the phone up and ring’.
“If you’ve got any gut feeling you should be seen to, pick the phone up and ring them.
“Don’t sit there wondering whether you are going to get your appointment or not.”
He would also encourage men to go to the doctor if they noticed a change in their health.
“Men are a bit apprehensive to go and get checked out but if their waterworks change, go and get checked out.
“Don’t wait to see if it’s going to improve or get worse.
“Time’s the killer.”
A checkup before buying travel insurance last year revealed cancer had spread to his lungs.
A course of drugs was controlling the cancer but in the past six months the drug was affecting his energy levels.
“I can do about two hours down in the garage standing on my feet and then I’m buggered for the day.
“The drug’s great, it’s stopping the cancer, but every drug always had a side effect.”