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HHS worries some cancers are going undiagnosed due to cancelled or missed appointments

Hamilton Health Sciences is sounding an alarm about an increase in missed and cancelled appointments for colorectal cancer screening, due to fears about entering hospitals due to COVID-19. Global News

Hamilton Health Sciences is sounding an alarm about an increase in missed and cancelled appointments for colorectal cancer screening over the last year.

The increase is attributed to fears people have with entering a hospital environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, but HHS says such fears should not exist.

The hospital system says its locations are “safe,” noting that various precautions are in place including “screening at entrances, masking requirements, physical distancing, and enhanced cleaning.”

Read more: ‘Behaviour changed’: Emergency hospital visits fell 50% in early days of pandemic

“Cancer screening is very important and is essential for your health,” said Dr. Barry Lumb, health information system lead for HHS. “Early diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference.”

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and HHS is taking the opportunity to emphasize how important it is to stay up-to-date with screenings.

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From Apr 1, 2020, to Feb 28, 2021, there were 114 missed endoscopy appointments for a positive Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), and over 2,000 cancelled ambulatory appointments.

“As a result of increases in missed and cancelled appointments,” Dr. Lamb notes, “there was approximately a 40 per cent reduction in diagnosed colorectal cancers this year compared to last.”

A lot of undiagnosed individuals in the region might be delaying their care, he concludes.

Read more: ‘Screening tests can save your life’: Canadian Cancer Society

Everyone should be screened for colon cancer starting at age 50.

Some common symptoms of colorectal cancer are a change in bowel habits (diarrhea/constipation), new abdominal pain, blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss and anemia.

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