Pandemic Recovery with Cancer Screening

As COVID-19 swept across the globe, so too did the sudden halt of cancer screening in Ontario. In anticipation of this unprecedented pandemic weighing down and exhausting the health care system, Ontario’s Ministry of Health ceased all non-emergent services, including diagnostic tests for cancer screening. Since then, there has been a need for intricate planning to pave the way for pandemic recovery and to return to a state of cancer-screening normalcy. But how do we reorient ourselves and revert back to a time before COVID-19?

With the facilitation of a learning collaborative delivered by the Alliance for Healthier Communities, SRCHC has been working on building back our capacity and planning for the resumption of cancer-screening services. Initially focusing on colorectal cancer screening, with the assistance of health promotion, primary care and administrative support staff, we have been able to make measurable strides in the direction of cancer-screening service restoration and have, since October 2021, increased the number of clients reached for colorectal cancer screening by nearly 10%.

We have learned that understanding and addressing barriers is key to ensuring equitable health outcomes. Because language capabilities tend to stand in the way of many clients accessing information about cancer screening, this barrier needs to be met with focused solutions. With the combined efforts made by health promotion and clinical registered nurses (RNs), cancer-screening resources are available in simplified Chinese, among other languages. These resources can be found on the advertisement screens in our office and can also be accessed directly from our primary care providers and administrative staff.

Other efforts to reach more clients for cancer screening include those undertaken by our clinicians, clinical RNs, and health promoters as they deliver education during appointments to emphasize the importance of screening. Our Women’s Screening Group is also resurfacing, with the goal of providing women with screening opportunities for breast and cervical cancer.

Despite the pandemic still looming over us, we have embarked on a journey to recovery and are eager to explore more approaches to help resume integral services that provide opportunities for cancer screening.