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Health A to Z  —  3 minutes

Diagnostic delays, be vigilant

May 26th, 2020
Biron

We have all witnessed the health care side effects of COVID-19. In order to better meet the needs of the pandemic, government authorities have requested the postponement of a large number of surgeries and hospital treatments. The number of elective procedures that have been postponed as a result of COVID-19 is estimated to be as high as 100,000 cases in Canada (1). In Quebec, some 700 cancers operations were reportedly not performed within the timeframe prescribed by the Ministry of Health, again because of the pandemic (2).

Diagnostic tests are no exception: in the United States, compared to 2019, there was a 90% drop in screening appointments for three major cancers in March: cervical, colon and breast cancer.

Although we do not have precise data, it is very likely that very significant decreases were also recorded in Quebec (2). The individual effects of all these delays will only be felt in a few years, while some health authorities expect a 5-10% drop in cancer survival rates (3).

Quebec cardiologists and neurologists report that heart attack and stroke patients do not go to hospital emergency departments for fear of contracting COVID-19, making them real time bombs (4). There is no evidence that social distancing measures will help reduce the number of STBBIs (sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections). It is also likely that many infections that occur just prior to the confinement period will take time to be diagnosed and treated (5).

What can we do about it?

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic will inevitably cause delays in surgeries and treatments deemed less urgent. As individuals, there is little we can do about this. But medical practice has not stopped there. Unable to allow as many office visits, many clinics offer teleconsultations (6) while radiology networks and some collection centres operate by appointment. Don't hesitate to visit them, your doctor will be able to ensure a follow-up. Your health is at stake!

Recommended Frequency of Routine Screening

Health problem Recommended screening frequency Screening test(s)
Cervical cancer Every 2 to 3 years for women 21 to 65 years old (7) Liquid-based Pap test for HPV and uterine cancer screening
Colon Cancer Every 2 years for individuals between 50 and 74 years of age (8) Immunochemical test for blood in stool to aid in the detection of colon cancer
Breast Cancer Every 2 years for women between 50 and 69 years old (9) Mammogram
Prostate Cancer To be discussed with your doctor Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) analysis
Diabetes Every 3 years for individuals over 40 years old and every 6 to 12 months for more at-risk individuals (10) Induced Hyperglycemia, Measuring blood glucose levels (glycemia) et Glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C)
Cardiovascular diseases Every year if your Framingham risk factor is equal to or greater than 5%. (11) Lipid profiles (LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, non-HDL cholesterol, apolipoproteine B)
Sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI) After having unprotected sex Screening for STBBIs

These general recommendations may vary. Your doctor will be able to tell you the recommended frequency for your situation.

When you need professional support, we are here to help

We offer a range of services that can help your doctor make a quick and accurate diagnosis, and thereby determine the right treatment for your health concerns.

If you have any questions or need more information, please don’t hesitate to call our customer service number at 1 833 590-2714.

  1. https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1697471/arriere-100-000-operations-chirurgicales-covid
  2. https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1697471/arriere-100-000-operations-chirurgicales-covid
  3. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(20)30243-6/fulltext#coronavirus-linkback-header
  4. https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1693406/coronavirus-crise-cardiaque-urgence-covid-infarctus-avc
  5. https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/national/coronavirus/health-experts-say-covid-19-has-caused-decline-in-access-to-std-testing
  6. https://www.lesoleil.com/actualite/covid-19/les-medecins-de-famille-fideles-au-poste-d508b4a4572625de4fc1c63da069d331
  7. https://www.quebec.ca/sante/conseils-et-prevention/depistage-et-offre-de-tests-de-porteur/depistage-du-cancer-du-col-uterus/
  8. https://www.quebec.ca/sante/conseils-et-prevention/depistage-et-offre-de-tests-de-porteur/depistage-du-cancer-colorectal/
  9. https://www.quebec.ca/sante/conseils-et-prevention/depistage-et-offre-de-tests-de-porteur/programme-quebecois-de-depistage-du-cancer-du-sein/
  10. https://www.diabete.qc.ca/fr/comprendre-le-diabete/ressources/pour-les-professionnels/depistage-et-diagnostic-du-diabete/
  11. https://www.ccs.ca/images/Guidelines/PocketGuides_EN/Lipids_Gui_2016_FR.pdf