Missed your last doctor appointment? It’s time to get back on track.

COVID-19 has changed the way Canadians interact with their healthcare team. While some impacts were immediate, like the increased pressure placed on our health care workers, one consequence that has largely fallen under the radar is the disruption of routine care and vaccinations.

Regular care routines help doctors catch diseases in early stages, when they can be much easier to treat. A lapse in routine care can allow some detectable diseases to go unnoticed until they are in later and potentially more serious stages. Physicians are now encouraging patients to come back to routine care and prioritize potentially life-saving care practices.

Dr. Gretty Deutsch, Vice President, Medical Affairs & Country Medical Director at Merck Canada, provides her perspective on the importance of maintaining a consistent care routine.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was reasonable for many of us to delay in-person routine visits to the doctor based on the information we had available. That’s no longer the case. It’s time to talk to your doctor about returning to a regular health check routine.

— Dr. Gretty Deutsch, Vice President, Medical Affairs & Country Medical Director at Merck Canada

Making cancer screenings a priority

Nearly half of Canadians are expected to receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.1 For these patients, missing routine cancer screenings could have significant health impact.

Provinces across the country have seen declines in new cancer diagnoses since the onset of the pandemic, which means some cancers may be going undetected.2

In Ontario, hundreds of thousands of people missed routine cancer screening appointments in 2020.3

Quebec officials estimate that 4119 people with cancer went undiagnosed during the first wave of COVID-19.4

A study showed that a 4-week delay in cancer treatment could increase the risk of death by about 10%.5,6

The good news is that many cancer services that were paused or postponed at the onset of the pandemic are now available again. It’s time to check in with your doctor to ensure you’re up to date with your routine screening schedule, including mammograms for early detection of breast cancer, stool tests for early detection of colorectal cancer and Pap tests for early detection of cervical cancer.7

Vaccines and Preventative Care

Vaccinations are another essential care practice impacted by the pandemic. When schools closed their doors in 2020, school-based vaccination programs were disrupted, and many primary care visits were cancelled or postponed. Some adults may not even realize they have missed a routine vaccination for themselves or their child.8

Vaccines can help protect children and adults from illnesses like herpes zoster, pneumococcal diseases and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection.9,10 A decrease in vaccination levels, for example, could mean more cases of shingles, pneumonia and cervical cancer, in future years.10,11

As a mother, knowing that I am doing everything I can to help protect my children is very important to me. Routine visits with a health care provider ensure that you and your child are on track with the recommended immunization schedule in your province.

— Dr. Gretty Deutsch, Vice President, Medical Affairs & Country Medical Director at Merck Canada

Endnotes

1Brenner DR, Weir HK, Demers AA, et al. Projected estimates of cancer in Canada in 2020. CMAJ. 2020;192(9):E199-E205.

2Duong D. Doctors warn of late diagnoses as cancer screening backlog grows. CMAJ. 2021;193(22):E811-E812.

3Duong D. Doctors warn of late diagnoses as cancer screening backlog grows. CMAJ. 2021;193(22):E811-E812.

4Duong D. Doctors warn of late diagnoses as cancer screening backlog grows. CMAJ. 2021;193(22):E811-E812.

5Hanna TP et al. Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2020;371:m4087.

6COVID-19 response. Canadian Cancer Society. Available at: https://cancer.ca/en/get-involved/advocacy/what-we-are-doing/covid-19-response. Accessed on September 23, 2021.

7COVID-19 response. Canadian Cancer Society. Available at: https://cancer.ca/en/get-involved/advocacy/what-we-are-doing/covid-19-response. Accessed on September 23, 2021.

8Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada. 1 in 4. Available at: https://www.oneinfour.ca/. Accessed on October 26, 2021.

9Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada. 1 in 4. Available at: https://www.oneinfour.ca/. Accessed on October 26, 2021.

10Canadian Immunization Guide. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/canadian-immunization-guide.html. Accessed on November 10, 2021.

11Public Health Agency of Canada. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). Interim guidance on continuity of immunization programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/immunization/national-advisory-committee-on-immunization-naci/interim-guidance-immunization-programs-during-covid-19-pandemic.html. Accessed on November 4, 2021.


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