Missed your last doctor appointment? It’s time to get back on track.
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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 starting to show symptoms: the disruption of routine care and vaccinations.
Regular care routines help doctors catch diseases in early stages, when they are much easier to treat. A lapse in routine care will allow many detectable diseases to go unnoticed until they are in later and more serious stages. Physicians are now encouraging patients to come back to routine care and prioritize potentially life-saving care practices.
Dr. Gretty Deutsch is the Vice President of Medical Affairs at Merck. With decades working in the health sector, her perspective on the importance of maintaining a consistent care routine is shaped by years of invaluable first-hand experience. Her advice?
“If we imagine our bodies like a car, everything works better when we keep a consistent maintenance schedule – change the tires in the winter, replace the oil, check the breaks. From my experience, medicines and vaccines work better, offer better outcomes and help prevent further complications when we maintain our health check routines.”
Dr. Gretty Deutsch
Making cancer screenings a priority
Nearly half of all Canadians are expected to receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.1 For these patients, missing routine cancer screenings could impact their chances of survival.
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 The chief medical officer of BC Cancer, estimates that new cancer diagnoses have dropped by about 20%.5
A study showed that a Just a 4-week delay in cancer treatment can increase the risk of death by about 10%.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 or even our annual flu vaccinations.
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 against meningococcal meningitis, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV) were disrupted, and many primary care visits were cancelled or postponed.
Immunization saves lives. Without immunizations we can expect to see serious outbreaks of many diseases that we are now protected against. A decrease in HPV vaccination levels for example could mean more cases of cervical cancer in future years. The Canadian Population Attributable Risk of Cancer study (ComPARe)*, estimates that about 4 in 10 cancer cases can be prevented in Canada, including ~3,800 cases of HPV related cancer, through healthy living and policies that protect the health of Canadians. This includes HPV vaccination7. Cervical Cancer is 100% preventable8.
“As a doctor, I know that the safety and efficacy of the routine vaccines we receive are backed by robust data and that staying on schedule is critical. As a mother, knowing that I am doing everything I can to protect my children is very important to me. No parent wants to be in a situation where their child gets sick from a preventable disease or illness because of a missed vaccine.”
Dr. Gretty Deutsch
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your family’s vaccine schedule and make sure you’re up to date. It may not be too late to get vaccinated.
“When your health is at stake, do not hesitate to take care of yourself first and see your physician as soon as possible.”
Dr. Gretty Deutsch
*The ComPARe study was funded by a Research Grant from the Canadian Cancer Society.
1 Brenner DR, Weir HK, Demers AA, et al. Projected estimates of cancer in Canada in 2020. CMAJ. 2020;192(9):E199-E205.
2 Duong D. Doctors warn of late diagnoses as cancer screening backlog grows. CMAJ. 2021;193(22):E811-E812.
3 Duong D. Doctors warn of late diagnoses as cancer screening backlog grows. CMAJ. 2021;193(22):E811-E812.
4 Duong D. Doctors warn of late diagnoses as cancer screening backlog grows. CMAJ. 2021;193(22):E811-E812.
5 Grant K. Crucial early cancer diagnoses being missed amid COVID-19 pandemic priorities. The Globe and Mail. Available at: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-crucial-early-cancer-diagnoses-being-missed-amid-covid-19-pandemic/. Published October 30, 2020. Accessed September 24, 2021.
6 COVID-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.
7 The Canadian Population Attributable Risk of Cancer study. Canadian Cancer Society. Available at: https://prevent.cancer.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/CMPR_1pgr_PctCncrsPrev-CA-EN.pdf Accessed on October 7, 2021.
8 The Canadian Population Attributable Risk of Cancer study. Canadian Cancer Society. Available at: https://prevent.cancer.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/CMPR_1pgr_PctCncrsPrev-CA-EN.pdf Accessed on October 7, 2021.