Pandemic causes delays in cancer screening and treatment
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer screening and treatment have been impacted in the Maritimes and across Canada.
Now, as operations return to pre-pandemic levels of efficiency, there are still concerns about cancer patients receiving proper care.
Some are worried about the long-term impacts of possibly missing early cancer detection because of COVID-19.
"At its highest peak, 47 per cent of Canadians were reporting some disruptions to their cancer care,” said Kelly Wilson Cull, who is the Advocacy Director for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Disruptions include delays in cancer appointments and surgeries. The Nova Scotia Health Authority suspended some cancer screening programs in the spring of 2020.
"We have three in our provinces,” said Wilson Cull. “Breast, cervical and colorectal programs that were all on pause, as they were throughout the country."
The question remains, how will cancer diagnosis be impacted by these delays?
"We, of course, know that in the case of cancer when it is caught at an early stage it is most reatable,” said Wilson Cull.
Delays in screening and treatments have added a tremendous burden for patients.
"For people who are unable to get those detection tests done, it can be very stressful and impactful," said Michelle Donaldson from the Lung Association of Nova Scotia.
In an email to CTV, the Nova Scotia Health Authority said the situation is improving.
“Colon cancer screening, using the home screening test is once again operating at pre-pandemic levels," it reads.
"The lab completed nearly 6,000 tests in September. Pap test providers have resumed performing pap tests to screen for cervical cancer and we are not aware of any delays in processing the tests.”
The IWK Health Centre told CTV in an email that, "breast screening sites in the province are back to the highest capacity they can achieve while still following public health measures which is around 90 per cent of pre-pandemic volumes provincially."
"We are now booking all available appointments and are back to pre-pandemic wait times again at most sites. We are encouraged by the number of women returning for breast screening," it reads.
Going forward, Wilson Cull said the best way to support cancer patients is to put an end to the pandemic.
"Do all the things we know we should be doing," said Wilson Cull. "Like wearing a mask, physical distancing and getting vaccinated."
Wilson Cull said these actions would help speed up cancer screening and treatment.