While the drumbeat news about COVID-19 can be overwhelming, a new aspect of the pandemic is coming to light that is giving us here at the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network some concern.
Initially, the public thought that COVID-19 was a one-off virus. You get it, and two weeks or so after infection, you’re in the clear, like any common cold. But sometimes, even if you are in the clear, the symptoms of COVID remain. For those who have a cough, fever, brain fog or loss of taste or smell three months after infection, they now are considered to have Long-COVID. Statistics Canada has estimated that 1.4 million Canadians have been affected by the condition. The World Health Organization predicts around 10 to 20 percent of people infected by COVID-19 will develop the condition.
According to a study lead by McMaster University and published in the European Respiratory Journal, most people recover from Long-COVID within a year. However, a quarter of those surveyed still had persistent symptoms past the one-year mark. Those who have symptoms after 12 months are urged to see a rheumatologist, as their condition has now become an auto-immune disorder. A study by the JAMA Network indicates Long-COVID is more likely to impact women than men. Because of our evolving understanding of Long-COVID, Health Canada says there is no clear way to diagnose or treat the condition.
The public health impacts have already spurred governments and groups to act. Ontario announced last fall that it is developing a plan to tackle the impacts of the disease. Alberta’s doctors have warned that the condition is “not a trivial risk” to public health. Clinics have popped up BC, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec dedicated to treating the symptoms of Long-COVID.
The condition has also led to impacts on the Canadian economy. Statistics Canada has predicted that five percent of the workforce has been affected by Long-COVID, and it is suspected to be a factor in the current labor shortages in the country. Financial institutions like SunLife are beginning to inform workplaces on how to manage the effects of Long-COVID, such as offering health supports and accommodations for employees suffering from the condition.
For any cancer patient or survivor reading this, it isn’t hard to see how the potential of getting this condition would be devastating to their recovery.
It is because of this that we are announcing the launch of our new Leger survey: Cancer Patients and Long-COVID. Often it has been said by experts at the World Health Organization and public health authorities across the globe that not enough research is being done on the condition. It is for that reason that we are conducting our own study to assess its impact on those who have, and have had, cancer.
This 10-minute survey will gather information about the impact the condition has on cancer survivors and caregivers. It will ask about the physical and financial impacts of the virus, and what impact it has on cancer care. We hope that this survey will give us a better understanding of the pressures faced by cancer patients, survivors and caregivers as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.
To participate in the survey, click here.