Medical Tourism – Prostate Case Study

Prostate Case Study of a Canadian Caucasian Male aged 65, or a medical tourist’s adventures with his prostate.

Total 8.5 days from getting on a plane in Nova Scotia to receiving a verdict regarding prostate cancer.

Verdict = No Cancer

During a visit to Thailand in February 2024, the subject had a complete physical at Jomtien Hospital Pattaya. Overall, his health was good, but he was informed that he had an enlarged prostate and slightly high PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels. He returned to his home country to check with his doctor and determine the next course of action.

Universal Health Care – with a Waiting Line

Wait Times for MRI - NS Hospitals

I am sure I do not need to tell you about the long waiting lines in Canada and the UK regarding universal health care – yes both countries have universal health care, but you have to get in the queue and make it through the system before whatever you have kills you.

He was told by his doctor that he would need to see a urologist and that the (wait time to see the urologist was 51 days). Once he visited the urologist, he would then most likely need an MRI.

The wait time for an MRI depends on the Hospital. (The QE II hospital in Halifax wait time – 50% of those in line would get an MRI in 34 days, 90% would get an MRI in 130 days). The wait time in Kentville (the closest hospital was 50% – 185 days, 90% – 374 days.

What to do?

He did some checking around and discovered that the urologist he was scheduled to see would be retiring in 6 months, and he may only just get in to see that doctor when the doctor retired. Would the doctor be able to refer, or would he then go to the back of the line again with a new doctor? There were many questions that were difficult to determine exactly the outcome. Wait or not?

He knew that medical treatment was available on demand in other countries. After all, he had just had a full medical in Thailand that alerted him to this problem. Between making the appointment and getting the medical there was only a one-day wait. He considered various locations for treatment but eventually decided to return to Thailand for several reasons.

Thailand Medical System
  • He was already familiar with the country and knew some people there – that was me, I am here.
  • He was familiar with the medical industry in Thailand
  • He was aware that the Thailand Government is actively promoting medical tourists with a medical tourist visa
  • He had already seen the standard of medical care here and knew it was top-notch.
  • He was aware that Thailand offers some of the best prostate treatments available in the world

Navigating the Medical System in Thailand

He returned to Thailand in May of 2024 and had a booking to visit the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital in 2 days time to see a urologist. He had an initial exam where it was determined that his PSA levels were indeed higher than normal, and his prostate was approximately 3 times normal size. An MRI was scheduled for 2 weeks time, as this was the first available slot for an MRI at Bangkok Pattaya Hospital.

After a discussion with myself, we decided to question the hospital to see if the MRI could be moved to a closer date and or if another hospital could do the MRI sooner. Sadly, the hospital told us that if we wanted to get an MRI from another location, we would have to search for it ourselves. Even though the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital group is part of the BDMS group, they were unable to help us. See our article on BDMS here.

I was surprised by this as I had expected that the Customer Service Department at Bangkok Pattaya would be willing to help. Bangkok Pattaya is a part of the BDMS group (Bangkok Dusit Medical Group), which is one of the largest hospital groups and clinics in the country. I was sure that another hospital within BDMS would be able to offer an MRI sooner than 2 weeks. However, they were not willing to help and advised us to check for ourselves. I have noticed over the years I have been in Thailand that “out of the box” solutions are not readily available here. There is a system in place, and you should follow the system. Finding alternative solutions to any problem is unusual.

We called Bangkok Hospital in Bangkok and were told that we could have an MRI either the following evening at 7 PM, Thursday, or, in 2 days time, Friday at 10 AM. The subject chose the Friday 10 AM time slot.

The MRI at Bangkok Hospital Bangkok

MRI for Prostate

Friday AM MRI. The subject arrived 1 hour early as this was a last-minute booking and he wanted to be sure the process was followed and the MRI was possible. There were some initial questions about a referral slip from a doctor, but that was solved by contacting the person who helped him over the phone to make the booking. The total cost was 27,310 Thai baht, for MRI, including a dye test.

The first part of the MRI took 30 minutes in the machine. I don’t know if you have had an MRI, but they are loud with banging and clacking. Usually, ear plugs are worn, along with sound-isolating headphones. It sounds like a drunken dwarf beating on an anvil.

After 30 minutes the subject was brought out of the machine and a dye was injected, followed by another 15 minutes in the MRI.

The total time from initial contact with the doctor to getting an MRI was 2 days.

Results – BPH Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

The report for the MRI was sent directly from Bangkok Hospital in Bangkok to the doctor at Bangkok Pattaya Hospital within 4.5 hours. The hospital called the patient and informed him the report was there already and he could schedule an appointment with the urologist the following day.

BPH - Benign prostatic hyperplasia

The doctor went over the report with the patient, explaining what everything meant, He was advised that he did not have cancer, simply a slightly enlarged prostate with slightly high PSA numbers.

The report detailed risk factors from 1 to 5 where 1 is the best and 5 is the worst (indicating a high chance of cancer). His numbers were 1, 1, and 3. The number 3 was due to his higher-than-normal PSA numbers.

He was advised to get his PSA numbers checked every 6 months.

Note: the subject was prepared to obtain treatment here if the results indicated that he had a problem with his prostate. This is something everyone should consider. If you commit to come here for answers to medical questions, then treatment should be considered. You are already here.

Cost Breakdown

Here is a breakdown of the costs involved for my friend: Total cost is approximately $5000.00 CDN. This includes approximately 3 weeks of vacation time.

ItemTHBCDN $Total CDN $
HFX to BKK – Turkish Air28,60011001100
Hotel next to Bangkok Pattaya Hospital1300501150
1st Doctor appt. / blood work54692101360
Travel to Bkk bus/taxi – 1 night in A-1 hotel next to Bkk hospital1831701430
MRI at Bangkok Hospital, including dye test, plus 960THB for Creatin for kidneys27,31010502480
Travel back to Pattaya – 331132493
Follow-up appt. with doctor Bangkok Pattaya Hospital, analysis of MRI etc.1,080422535
Return trip to Canada BKK to HFX – Etihad Air33,80013003835
Extra Days spent in Thailand, travel hotel, meals, etc. (Estimate)30,29011655000
Total Costs of Trip to Thailand to determine if the prostate problem is benign or not

    Follow up

    The subject will spend an additional 2 weeks here in Thailand. Then he will return to the West. Once there he plans to go into the national healthcare system in Canada and wait the 6 months to a year it will take to see a urologist, then a specialist, and an MRI. This will get him to a similar place to what he achieved here in ~6 days (once on the ground).

    My friend is a medical tourist. He had a problem that the national healthcare system would have taken up to a year or longer to diagnose. He was able to travel to have the problem looked at. He received an answer within 8.5 days of leaving his home country.

    The total costs for his medical diagnosis were approximately $3835 CDN. He was found to have BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia). His higher-than-average PSA numbers were confirmed. He was advised to get his PSA numbers checked every 6 months going forward.

    My friend is very happy with the results, he got an answer in 8.5 days that would most likely have taken him a year to get in the west. The clock is ticking.

    BPH The clock is ticking

    It is worthwhile considering if you have health concerns, and can afford to make the trip.

    Can you afford not to?

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