Cancer Can’t Wait! Report on CCSN’s Three Surveys on COVID-19 and Cancer

CCSN’s three surveys on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer care in Canada have been a valuable source of information and insight. Now CCSN has released a report, titled “Thrown Under the Bus: Disruption of Cancer Care in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic”, that gathers together the results of these surveys, combining the statistics with cancer patients’ and caregivers’ own words to paint a picture of the experience of cancer patients and caregivers during the pandemic.

On average, 9 per cent of patients, 27 per cent of caregivers, and 23 per cent of pre-diagnosis patients had a cancer procedures postponed or cancelled during the pandemic.
Cancer procedures postponed or cancelled during the pandemic among survey respondents

Key points from the report:

  • Cancer patients have not been able to get the care they need when they need it. Postponed appointments and surgeries have been quite common, and wait times for rescheduled appointments and surgeries are sometimes months long.

  • Stress and anxiety about cancer care are overwhelmingly common: over half of all respondents said the pandemic has affected their levels of anxiety. A similar number said they were worried about being able to receive cancer treatment in a timely fashion.

  • Getting COVID-19 has been the most common pandemic-related fear for patients and caregivers. Some cancer patients are afraid to get in-person medical care for cancer-related symptoms because they feel that COVID-19 risk is too great.

  • Caregivers have had an especially rough time, with respect to disruptions to cancer care as well as stress and anxiety.

  • The pandemic has caused financial difficulties for people affected by cancer, most often because of reductions in work hours or job loss.

I feared going to the hospital for my CT scan. I feared getting COVID. I feared NOT getting my CT scan, as then I would have to wait LONGER for any results. … I feared being bumped out of the system. I FEEL DISPLACED. I now feel lost. I feel that NO ONE cares about me/my health.

I have had SO many appointments cancelled, delayed, changed, pushed out, I can no longer count them. … We were THROWN UNDER THE BUS. PERIOD.

— A stage 2 colorectal cancer patient in Ontario

The results show that the pressure from the pandemic on Canada’s healthcare system has led to another public health crisis. Cancer patients’ access to essential cancer care, safety from COVID-19, and mental and physical health have all been put in jeopardy.

Read the report!