Cancer deaths must not be a side effect of the pandemic: delays in cancer
diagnosis and treatment could cause thousands to suffer and die prematurely.
Pandemic-related delays to screening, treatment, and surgeries have created a backlog of cancer patients needing more support, at more advanced stages of cancer.
The pandemic has brought our cancer care systems to a crisis point in Canada. There are signs
that the cancer death rate is accelerating due to delays in cancer screening, treatment and surgeries
over the last two years.
Today, we announce the launch of Cancer Action Now, an alliance of 27 health care organizations that
have come together to urge provincial governments across the country to make cancer a priority as we
re-build our health care systems in the wake of the pandemic.
The effects of the pandemic on people with cancer will last at least a decade. Pandemic-related declines
in diagnosis and treatment could result in at least 21,247 more cancer deaths than predicted between
2020-2030. 1 However, the actual number of excess cancer deaths is likely to be much higher. Each four-
week delay in cancer surgery can increase the rate of mortality by 6-8%. Yet 50% of cancer patients, to
this day, continue to have their appointments cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic. 2 With nearly
half of Canadians predicted to be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime, governments
across Canada must make a new plan to address the problems our cancer care systems are facing.
A patient’s perspective Laura, mother of two teenagers, was diagnosed at the end of 2021 with metastatic breast cancer.
The pandemic impacted access to primary care and delayed her scheduled mammogram. By the time Laura
was able to access the cancer screening program, it was found that her cancer had progressed to stage
4, meaning that it cannot be cured and can only be treated. Laura is sadly not alone, and even with the
resumption of cancer screening programs, patients face long wait times and later-stage diagnoses.
The latest research shows that we need to increase cancer screening and treatment capacity by at least
10% over pre-pandemic levels in each province to address all backlogs. 3 Cancer Action Now is confident
that with urgent action from governments, we can improve the situation and create better outcomes for
people with a diagnosis of cancer.
Cancer Action Now alliance member, Jackie Manthorne from Canadian Cancer Survivor Network says
“Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, and it won’t wait for the pandemic to end. By increasing
cancer diagnostic and treatment capacity to address the backlog, we will have a fighting chance to
minimize the excess cancer deaths in Canada. The issues with our cancer systems existed well before the
pandemic but have worsened over the last two years. We need governments to acknowledge this
problem and urgently develop a new plan. We need cancer action now.”
The pandemic has shown us the power of coming together and fighting a common cause. With the
Ontario election just around the corner, Cancer Action Now calls on the next Ontario government to set
an example for other provinces and create a cancer action plan to address the delays in screening and
treatment for cancer patients. Together, we can drastically improve cancer outcomes for Canadians.
About Cancer Action Now:
Cancer Action Now is a national alliance of patient organizations, professional associations, and life
sciences companies who are witnessing the magnitude of the problem our cancer care systems and its
patients are facing in light of the pandemic. We have come together to call on governments to address
the issues in our cancer care systems so that Canadians with cancer have a chance to live longer, better
lives than anywhere else in the world.
Cancer Action Now Alliance membership is ever-growing and includes:
Bladder Cancer Canada
Canadian Association of Thoracic Surgeons
Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology
Canadian Breast Cancer Network
Canadian Cancer Survivor Network
Canadian Liver Foundation
Canadian Urological Association
The Cancer Collaborative
Cancer Research Society
Coalition priorité cancer au Québec
Colorectal Cancer Canada
HPV Global Action
Kidney Cancer Canada
Life Saving Therapies Network
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada
Lung Cancer Canada
Lung Health Foundation
Ovarian Cancer Canada
Pancreatic Cancer Canada
Save Your Skin Foundation
The Society of Gynecologic Oncology of Canada
For media inquiries, please contact:
1 Malagon (2021), https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ijc.33884
2 Malagon (2021), https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ijc.33884
3 Chen-See (2020),https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(20)30397-1/fulltext
and CCSN (2021), https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/situation-critical-new-survey-reveals-covid-19-continues-to-disrupt-cancer-care-