The story of a Swedish breast cancer patient: “I didn’t want to wait any longer.”

Merja Kailokari, who lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with her family, was first diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 43 years old. She was treated in Sweden at the time. Now, after 15 years, the disease has been diagnosed again. As Merja visits Docrates Cancer Center in Helsinki, she goes over the events of the past few months.

Cancer diagnosed in a routine screening

“I had a routine screening examination in in Sweden in early 2017, where something suspicious was detected in one of my breasts. It took some time to receive a diagnosis. I had several examinations in various locations in Stockholm, and I was always met by new unfamiliar nurses and doctors. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, the surgery was arranged three weeks later, but the entire process took two months,” says Merja. “The waiting was horrible. I couldn’t sleep. I was constantly monitoring my condition and worrying if the cancer was spreading to my lymph nodes while waiting.”

Long waiting lists for radiotherapy a problem in Sweden

Once the dreadful wait was over, the surgery was performed well by a kind and professional surgeon. Thankfully, Merja’s cancer had not spread, so a combination of radiotherapy and hormone therapy was selected as the post-operational method of treatment. Merja started the hormone therapy immediately, but she faced another wait for the radiotherapy to begin.

“The waiting lists for radiotherapy in Stockholm are really long,” Merja says disappointedly. “I started looking for information from Internet. I learned that radiotherapy should begin sooner, about four to six weeks after surgery. In Stockholm, I was facing at least eight weeks of waiting. Then, via Google, I happened to find private Docrates Cancer Center in Finland, and I began to investigate how things could be arranged with the sickness fund in Stockholm. I called the Breast Cancer Association Amazona in Stockholm for information about Docrates. Luckily, they were already familiar with the Finnish hospital. I then called Docrates and found out that my treatment could be started immediately. I care enough about my health to make the decision to do it.”

Expert treatment readily available

As Merja is now visiting Docrates for her treatment, she is visibly relieved at not having to wait any more. “My radiotherapy begins today. Already after my first appointment, I was feeling confident about the treatment that lay ahead. It has also become apparent to me what was missing in my diagnosis in Sweden.”

Merja is visiting Maigo Riener, a Specialist in Medical Oncology, for her appointment at Docrates. Everything about Merja’s individual situation was reviewed diligently at the appointment. For Merja, it was a relief to finally visit a designated personal doctor who could answer her questions and assess her situation as a whole by paying attention to her other illnesses and medication. “It was also comforting to speak with a personal doctor about the probability of the disease returning,” Merja says. She continues: “Although this is the second time I have been diagnosed with breast cancer, luckily enough, my condition is not likely to reoccur.”

Support from the multilingual staff and modern methods of communication

In Sweden, the freedom to choose a social welfare and healthcare service provider is more extensive than in Finland, and everyone eligible for healthcare services in Sweden has the right to seek treatment from any other EU country. However, such arrangements require some paperwork. To help their Swedish-speaking patients in such matters, Docrates has compiled

During her treatment process, Merja has also had access to Docrates’ digital Kaiku Health patient monitoring service, where she was able to arrange practical matters, seek information, discuss with the personnel directly and receive quick answers to any questions she had. Thanks to Kaiku, Merja did not need to worry about her condition alone. Instead, she was able to discuss it without delay with her own care team.

“I am immensely satisfied and grateful to the care team for everything.”

For the three weeks of the radiotherapy, Merja lived in a rental apartment within walking distance of the hospital. “The apartment is cosy, I have plenty of space just for me and I can have a cup of coffee any time I want. My husband can also visit to keep me company for the weekend,” Merja said when the treatment was beginning.

Merja headed home to Sweden around Midsummer. “I am immensely satisfied and grateful to the care team for everything, for their professional approach and friendly support throughout my treatment process. I have felt safe and confident, and the traumatic reaction to the diagnosis has also subsided,” says Merja. “I work in a company in the field of biochemistry, where we provide researchers with supplies for their research. I know what good customer service means. I admire Docrates for their ability to invest in high-quality customer experiences in addition to world-class medical expertise.”

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