MacFarlane, PCs: All cancer screenings should resume

Nova Scotians who want to be screened for colorectal cancer are wondering when the service will resume.

Progressive Conservative Healthcare critic, Karla MacFarlane, is deeply concerned to learn that important, life saving tests are still being postponed due to COVID-19.

MacFarlane has learned that colorectal cancer screening kits have been halted due to the pandemic. Distribution was initially shut down to redeploy staff during the first wave, but no one has heard when it may restart.

“It’s beyond upsetting that these kits are not being used to detect early stages of cancer,” says MacFarlane.

According to the Nova Scotia Cancer Care Program website, the fecal immunochemical stool test (FIT), introduced in Nova Scotia in 2009, has been very effective. As of September 2017, the Colon Cancer Prevention Program has identified about 500 individuals with cancer, and over 4,000 have had precancerous polyps detected and removed as a result of participation in the program.

If those trends hold, there could be up to 30 Nova Scotians who are undiagnosed with colon cancer.

“Nova Scotians did the work asked of them. At the beginning of the pandemic, when they were told that their normal routines would be interrupted, they were more than understanding,” says MacFarlane. “Now that businesses have reopened and school is scheduled to resume in a few weeks, it is completely reasonable for the Minister of Health to resume these often life-saving tests.”

Fecal smear kits join a growing list of services that are on pause or have seen delays under the Liberal government. Mammograms, pap tests, pelvic tests, same-day admissions and elective surgical procedures were postponed back in March.

“We’re hearing from Nova Scotians that there are major delays with services like pap smears and mammograms,” says MacFarlane. “We’re worried about the health and well-being of Nova Scotians.”

MacFarlane says that cancelling all these services wasn’t sustainable during the first wave, and that if our testing capacities are stressed, we need to figure out  a new plan for a second wave.

“We cannot continue to pause these services,” says MacFarlane. “Early detection is key and possibly life-saving.”