New survey reveals cancer care disruption in Canada has triggered another public health crisis
The results of a new survey released today by the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN) reveal that the disruption of cancer care due to COVID-19 has triggered another public health crisis. In fact, more than half (54%) of Canadian cancer patients, caregivers and those awaiting confirmation of a cancer diagnosis report having had appointments, tests and treatment postponed and cancelled, causing heightened fears and anxiety – even as some pandemic restrictions are lifted. The survey results confirm that safe and timely access to essential cancer care, including diagnostics, testing and treatment, must remain a top priority across Canada during any public health crisis.
Disruption of cancer care causes major physical and psychological impacts
Most affected by the disruption in cancer care during the pandemic are those awaiting confirmation of a diagnosis and recently diagnosed patients (74% and 73% respectively), who are at a critical time in their cancer journey. And while many of those who contacted their doctors (83%) said they were able to have a virtual consult during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost three-quarters (71%) of all surveyed remained concerned about access to in-person care, including being cared for in a hospital/emergency room and receiving various tests and treatment.
In addition to the physical impact of COVID-19 on those facing cancer, the disruption of care has taken a considerable mental and emotional toll, with the majority of respondents surveyed (74%) saying that delays in appointments and treatment have had a major impact on their mental and emotional health. Even as pandemic restrictions begin to lift, ongoing concerns about receiving adequate cancer care continue to fuel anxieties, especially among those with metastatic disease (67%) and caregivers (91%).
Crisis and pandemic planning must include essential cancer care
Based on these survey results, CCSN calls upon governments across Canada to heed the experiences of those facing cancer and their caregivers by providing for the explicit inclusion of essential cancer care in all crisis and pandemic planning.
About the COVID-19 & Cancer Care Disruption in Canada Survey
To assess the extent to which COVID-19 has disrupted cancer care in Canada, a national web survey was conducted by Leger on behalf of CCSN among 1,243 people (960 cancer patients, 206 caregivers of cancer patients and 77 patients in cancer pre-diagnosis) from May 22 to June 10, 2020, using Leger’s online panel, LEO, and with participation from the broader cancer community.
For comparison, a probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-3.2%, 19 times out of 20 for patients, +/-6.8%, 19 times out of 20 for caregivers, and +/-11.2%, 19 times out of 20 for patients in cancer pre-diagnosis.