March 11, 2021
Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, Chair
National Advisory Committee on Immuniza
CHU Sainte-Justine, University of Montréal
By email: email@example.com
Dear Dr. Quach-Thanh:
I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN) to urge the National Advisory Committee on
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization states that “the goal of Canada’s pandemic response is to minimize serious illness and death while minimizing societal disruption because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 225,800 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer every year, but this commonly shared statistic does not represent the many more Canadians who were diagnosed in previous years and are still undergoing treatment today. Unfortunately, the pandemic response has inadvertently negatively impacted the lives of cancer patients and survivors. This applies to all cancer patients, and particularly to those with lung cancer, who are uniquely vulnerable to complications if they contract COVID-19 due to their diminished lung function and immunocompromised systems.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, CCSN conducted two national surveys in partnership with Leger to better understand COVID-19’s impact on the delivery of cancer care in Canada. Some of the most significant findings of the second survey, conducted in December 2020 and launched on World Cancer Day on February 4, 2021, include:
- 51 per cent of cancer patients, 50 per cent of caregivers and 61 per cent of those undergoing tests to determine if they have cancer have had appointments cancelled, postponed, or rescheduled.
- 9 per cent of cancer patients and 26 per cent of those undergoing tests to determine if they have cancer have had surgery or other procedures cancelled, postponed, or rescheduled.
- The average time to reschedule appointments was 38 days for patients, and 27 days for caregivers and those undergoing tests to determine if they have cancer.
- The average time to reschedule surgery was 61 days for patients, 44 days for caregivers, and 41 days for those undergoing procedures to determine if they have cancer.
While many had their appointments cancelled or postponed by doctors or other healthcare workers, numerous cancer patients, survivors and those undergoing tests to determine if they have cancer personally chose to put off or delay trips to hospitals or clinics due to a fear of contracting COVID-19:
- 8 per cent of patients, 23 per cent of caregivers, and 20 percent of those undergoing tests to determine if they have cancer personally chose to cancel or postpone an in-person appointment with their doctor.
- 8 per cent of patients, 25 per cent of caregivers, and 29 per cent of those undergoing tests to determine if they have cancer avoided booking an appointment with the doctor even though they needed one.
- 7 per cent of patients, 28 per cent of caregivers, and 29 percent of those undergoing tests to determine if they have cancer avoided going to the ER for symptoms related to cancer.
- 6 per cent of patients, 26 per cent of caregivers, and 21 per cent of those undergoing tests to determine if they have cancer personally chose to cancel or postpone a lab test/diagnostic test for cancer or to confirm cancer.
CCSN’s two Leger surveys make it abundantly clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on both the physical and mental health of cancer patients across Canada. The second wave of the pandemic and the reinforcement of countless public health measures resulted in cancer patients, caregivers and those undergoing tests to determine if they have cancer becoming more anxious and fearful than ever before:
- 63 per cent are concerned about their ability to receive hospital care if needed.
- 63 per cent are concerned about their ability to be cared for in the ER if needed.
- 62 per cent are concerned about being able to receive cancer treatment in a timely fashion.
- 59 per cent are concerned about receiving in-person care.
- 59 per cent are concerned about being able to get tests related to cancer.
Cancer patients and their caregivers’ hesitancy to access healthcare and cancer care services will inevitably lead to worse outcomes, including fewer screenings and delayed diagnoses and treatment, and as a result, increased cancer mortality. But it does not have to be this way: we can minimize serious illness and death. It all starts with the realization that cancer can’t wait!
Vaccinating cancer patients and their caregivers now will help deal with their anxiety about contracting COVID-19 while accessing healthcare and cancer care, and will result in cancer patients and caregivers not only being but also feeling safer when they go to in-person appointments, the hospital, cancer centre or ER for care, tests or surgery and other procedures.
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network is calling on the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to immediately update its Guidance on the Prioritization of Key Populations for COVID-19 Immunization to explicitly include cancer patients and their caregivers in early Stage 2 immunization plans.
We will be contacting you to arrange virtual meetings to further share the results of our Leger surveys on COVID-19 and the disruption of cancer care.
President & CEO