As Canadian doctors are preparing themselves for the COVID-19 tsunami, its ripples can be already seen in cancer care causing delays in patient’s surgeries. The Corona pandemic has created surreal experiences for everyone, including the 617 people in this country who are diagnosed with cancer each day on average, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
Dr. Jory Simpson, a surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto says that if a patient has a deadly tumor needing emergency surgery, it will be done. He enlightened new set of priorities as hospitals struggle to make space for COVID-19 patients, priorities include that Life or limb-threatening cancers will be at the top of the list, Patients with solid tumors, including breast and colon cancer, may wait up to four weeks and Early-stage cancers such as prostate or thyroid may wait up to two months. Simpson suggests that people with cancer are more susceptible to COVID-19 infection and, in those with reduced immune systems because of chemotherapy or radiation, the course of the infection may be more severe.
Ontario’s health minister, Christine Elliott said that those decisions are being made based in consultation with cancer-care experts. Cara Heitmann, 53, from Toronto who lives alone and runs her own business had her breast cancer surgery rescheduled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She is angry, scared and confused as she doesn’t know if, when will she have surgery or if cancer will spread saying “I don’t know if I will survive this” Heitmann also mentioned that she has access to her surgeon’s case notes that list her as a priority case “The hospital is focusing on preserving the capacity to treat people with COVID-19 and keeping the hospital environment safe for patients and staff.” Said Dr. Mary, a radiation oncologist and medical director of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Further Gospodarowicz clears that Physicians would like to treat patients as quickly as possible but decreasing the number of patients that come to the hospital and also interact with us is safer for patients in these times of community transmission of COVID.
Chemotherapy treatment and follow-up are being delayed unless critical, and where possible, follow-up appointments are conducted online or by phone, she said.