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Advanced cancers rising months after shutdown of non-urgent healthcare services

Medical team performs surgery in a Toronto hospital. CITYNEWS

It’s being described as an unintended consequence of the shut-down in March — the number of people coming to hospital with advanced cancers is reportedly on the rise

There is a stark rise in the number of people in this province coming to hospital with advanced cancers — months after the sudden shutdown of non-urgent healthcare services in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-March, the number of people getting routine cancer screening plummeted when the province stopped its screening programs for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers.

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreak declared at Sunnybrook hospital surgical unit

Now cancer surgeons tell the Toronto Star seven months into the pandemic, too many cancers are not being caught at their earliest stages, as patients arrive in hospital with more severe symptoms and advanced stages of disease.

Physicians say they’ve also seen a corresponding drop in patients going for diagnostic imaging tests and that some patients are deferring care, over fears of contracting the coronavirus in hospitals or doctors’ offices.

Routine cancer screening has largely resumed, but the programs are not back to pre-pandemic levels.

A gastroenterologist at Unity Health Toronto told the Toronto Star the risk of deferring their care, and not having their symptoms investigated or having their screening tests done, far outweighs any risk of coming into the hospital.

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