BC Cancer is temporarily suspending many of its cancer screening services across the province to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Screening tests for breast and colon cancer are the most affected during the pandemic and that prompted a bulletin from BC Cancer on its website last week.
Shutting down or reducing those screening services will take some of the pressure off the health care system to allow essential health care staff to be re-trained so they can focus on urgent and emergent care until the threat of the virus subsides.
BC Cancer, which operates the BC Cancer Centre for the North in Prince George on Lethbridge Street adjacent to University Hospital of Northern BC, has postponed all breast cancer screenings. Anybody with prior appointments will have been notified and put on a wait list. Appointments will be re-booked in priority order once the service is restored. Reminder notices for screening have also been suspended.
Those who have already had a screening mammogram and are awaiting results will still receive those results, which will be sent to the patient’s family doctor. If new symptoms are noticed, patients are requested to contact their doctor to discuss an alternate test.
Many colonoscopy procedures have also been suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. That includes screening colonoscopies for people not showing any symptoms but have a family history of colon cancer, as well as follow-up colonoscopies for people with abnormal fecal immunochemical test (FIT) results.
Diagnostic testing is still being conducted for people experiencing symptoms such as blood in your stool, abdominal pain, change in bowel habits or unexplained weight loss. Anybody with any of those symptoms is advised to contact your health care provider to determine the cause. A non-urgent FIT test is not appropriate in those cases.
FIT kits to collect stool samples are not being distributed by the testing laboratories because even if an abnormal result is detected patients will not be booked for a follow-up colonoscopy until non-emergent service resumes. To encourage social distancing, patients should not be bringing FIT kits to the labs, nor should they go to their doctor to request a FIT test until the COVID-19 threat subsides.
People who have already picked up a FIT kit and have used it to collect a stool sample should not dispose of it in the household garbage but should return it to the lab once non-urgent, non-emergent services are restored. If you have already picked up the test kit and have not used it, wait until full services are in place again before collecting the sample. While health officials are uncertain when the suspension of tests will be lifted, the changes will be in effect at least until the end of May.
For more information call 1-877-702-6566 or got to the BC Cancer website at bccancer.bc.ca.