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Cancer care still seeing delays as COVID-19 weighs down hospitals: survey

A late July poll by Canadian Cancer Survivor Network and Leger found 50 per cent of respondents⁠ had cancer care appointments cancelled, postponed or rescheduled, including six in 10 recently diagnosed patients and seven in 10 patients with metastatic cancer. Getty Images

The pandemic continues to take its toll on hospital staff and patient wait times, including timely cancer care, a recent report suggests.

A late July poll by Canadian Cancer Survivor Network and Leger found 50 per cent of respondents ⁠— either Canadians already diagnosed with cancer, caregivers or those trying to find out whether they have the disease — had cancer care appointments cancelled, postponed or rescheduled, including six in 10 recently diagnosed patients and seven in 10 patients with metastatic cancer.

Read more: ‘I’m a goner’: How COVID-19 compounds the challenges for Canada’s cancer patients

The study suggests they waited an average of 28 days to reschedule cancer care appointments and 44 days for procedures or surgeries, with delays significantly affecting 70 per cent of respondents’ mental health. Around a third of participants also reported not getting a rescheduled time for their appointment, procedure or surgery.

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“Across Canada, we have all witnessed the physical, psychological, and financial impact of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months,” president and CEO of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network, Jackie Manthorne, said in an August news release. “For those Canadians facing cancer, the impact is even greater.”

“Cancer can’t wait. It can’t be cancelled or postponed,” she said.

The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network says the cross-Canada drop in screening likely mean cancers won’t be detected and diagnosed until later stages.

This is the duo’s third survey of its kind throughout the pandemic, conducted between June 10 and July 4, and comes as Winnipeg emergency rooms recorded some of the longest wait times they’d seen in years in July.

The last two studies took place from May to June last year and in December during the first and second COVID-19 waves.

Read more: ‘It’s exceedingly frustrating’: Winnipeg doctors raise alarm over hospital waits, capacity

Despite many still experiencing delays, the third wave poll results are showing some overall improvements. Slightly fewer people reported cancelled, postponed or rescheduled appointments, diagnostic tests and procedures or surgeries during the third wave than the second wave.

As well, a smaller proportion of respondents said they avoided visiting an emergency room or a hospital for cancer care. Fewer people also reported being concerned about getting treatment for their disease, although three in five continue to express concerns about receiving adequate health care.

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More than 1,500 Canadians 18 and older participated in Canadian Cancer Survivor Network and Leger’s latest online survey, more than 77 per cent of whom were diagnosed with cancer.

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