The 3,800 Club: 21,000 breast cancer screenings lost to the pandemic
A radiologist compares an image from a 2-D technology mammogram to 3-D Digital Breast Tomosynthesis mammography in Wichita Falls, Tex., on Tuesday, July 31, 2012. (Torin Halsey/Times Record News via AP)
VANCOUVER -- I’ve heard your stories.
And I’m cheering for you.
The patient ringing a bell at her last chemotherapy treatment from a balcony at the Abbotsford Cancer Centre as family applauds from the parking lot below.
A hospital parking lot parade organized to lift the spirits of a cancer patient because of visitor restrictions.
I know COVID-19 has brought a lot of changes, but you keep finding ways to fight through them.
Even for patients like myself, who are finished their primary treatment, things are a little different.
For the first time, I had a virtual appointment with one of my doctors.
My oncology appointment was over the phone.
A test I need has been postponed and instead of picking up my medication, it’s sent through the mail.
BC Cancer says it has been making these changes during the pandemic with patients in mind.
“We’re doing a lot of virtual healthcare…now about 70 per cent of our visits are done virtually. That helps keep people safe at home,” says Dr. Kim Nguyen Chi, vice president and chief medical officer at BC Cancer.
For those patients who need to go to the cancer centres, there are precautions in place.
“We have enhanced screening for patients when they come into the centres,” explains Dr. Chi. There is also enhanced cleaning.
The doctor says that at the beginning of the pandemic, he’s aware there were patients choosing to delay treatment. He says that’s no longer the case.
And though some cancer patients have come down with COVID-19, he says they were infected in the community, not at any BC Cancer facility.
Dr. Chi says cancer surgeries have continued in BC, but the pandemic has meant screening programs for breast, cervical and colon cancer for non-symptomatic people have stopped. For breast screenings alone, that’s 21,000 screenings that didn’t happen in just the first month of shut-downs.
“We’ve definitely realized this is an issue and we are looking at getting that going as quickly as possible and as safely as possible,” explains Dr. Chi.
Dr. Chi wants people to know that despite the changes, anyone with cancer worries should still see their family physician.
“So we want to reassure patients that if they do have a concern about cancer, they should definitely access healthcare. They are still being prioritized. They are still being done,” he said.