The situation is critical! A new survey reveals COVID-19 continues to disrupt cancer care across Canada triggering another public health crisis
Ottawa, August 26, 2021 – Cancer still can’t wait! This is the message the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network is sharing with Canadians and policymakers from across the country based on survey results released today.
Entitled Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Cancer Patients and their Ability to Receive Treatment, the national survey, which was conducted between June 10th to July 4th, 2021, is the third in a series of research conducted by Leger for the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network. The research aims to assess the extent to which the disruption of cancer care caused by COVID-19 is impacting cancer patients and caregivers, from an emotional and physical wellness perspective. Participants included 1,159 Canadians diagnosed with cancer, 233 caregivers of cancer patients, and 110 Canadians pre-diagnosed with cancer.
Disruption in cancer care continues
Eighteen months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, half of the cancer patients across Canada report their cancer care appointments are cancelled, postponed, or rescheduled, while six in 10 recently diagnosed patients and seven in 10 patients with metastatic cancer report their cancer care appointments are cancelled, postponed, or rescheduled.
On average, it takes 28 days to reschedule cancer care appointments and 44 days to reschedule procedures or surgeries. Moreover, one-third of patients report they still do not have a rescheduled appointment or date for surgery.
Delays in appointments and treatments continue to impact patients and caregivers, with nearly 70 percent reporting these delays were having a major impact on their emotional and mental health.
Widespread decline in cancer screening across Canada
The widespread decline in screening across Canada will likely result in cancers being diagnosed at later stages. The Quebec Ministry of Health reports over 60,000 fewer colonoscopies were completed between April 2020 and January 1, 2021, versus the same period from the previous year.1 Alberta and Nova Scotia also saw reductions in cancer diagnoses and surgeries during the pandemic.2 And the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) performed 149 mammograms for routine cancer screening in April 2020, compared with 61,655 during the same month one year prior.3
Our call to action: Cancer Can’t Wait
“Across Canada, we have all witnessed the physical, psychological, and financial impact of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months,” says Jackie Manthorne, President and CEO of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network. “For those Canadians facing cancer, the impact is even greater.”
“Cancer can’t wait. It can’t be cancelled or postponed,” declares Manthorne. “The pandemic cannot continue to delay diagnoses, tests, treatments, and care that will help save cancer patients’ lives. As COVID-19 continues, so too must cancer care.”
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network calls on governments, healthcare facilities, and cancer centres not to wait until the pandemic is declared over to invest in strengthening cancer care. Cancer can’t wait for those who are without a cancer diagnosis and for those whose cancer may have progressed to a later stage during the pandemic. Policymakers and hospital administrators across Canada must help to avoid what may already be an unavoidable increase in the number of deaths from cancer.
About the Survey
On behalf of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network, Leger has conducted three studies to assess the extent to which the disruption of cancer care caused by COVID-19 is impacting cancer patients and caregivers, from an emotional and physical wellness perspective.
This is the third online study, which was conducted June 10th to July 4th, 2021, with 1,159 Canadians diagnosed with cancer, 233 caregivers of cancer patients, and 110 Canadians pre-diagnosed with cancer. National and regional data is available for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. Click here to receive the latest survey report: The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Cancer Patients and their Ability to Receive Treatment.
Data is also available for the first two Leger studies. The first Leger study was conducted from May 22nd to June 10th, 2020; the second survey ran from December 3rd to 29th, 2020. Click here to receive these reports.
About the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network
CCSN works to connect patients, survivors, and other stakeholder groups with decision-makers and the wider community to engage in discussion and to act on evidence-based best practices to alleviate the medical, emotional, financial, and social costs of cancer. To learn more, visit survivornet.ca.
For further information:
- Cancer that went undetected during the pandemic an ‘impending disaster,’ specialists warn, CBC News, February 2, 2021, https://bit.ly/3B68rjm
- Doctors fear an impending wave of cancer patients after COVID-19 delays, CTV News, https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/doctors-fear-an-impending-wave-of-cancer-patients-after-covid-19- delays-1.5295867
- Cancer screenings are down during COVID-19. Will cancer deaths rise? TVO, April 28, 2021, https://www.tvo.org/article/cancer-screenings-are-down-during-covid-19-will-cancer-deaths-rise?