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COVID-19 and Cancer Screening

Information for patients and health professionals
Breast
The BC Cancer Breast Screening Program will resume screening mammography services in select screening centre sites in June. Find answers to common questions below.

The BC Cancer Breast Screening Program will resume screening mammography services in select screening centre sites in June.

It is anticipated that all sites, including three mobile screening units, will be screening again by July.


Breast screening was temporarily suspended in March 2020 to support physical distancing and to assist in efforts to minimize COVID-19 transmission in healthy people. This allowed hospitals to redeploy and train essential health-care workers so that they could respond to a potential surge in patients infected with COVID-19 and requiring acute care.

BC Cancer Breast Screening is committed to ensuring the safety of patients and health care providers during screening mammography appointments. We have introduced several measures that support safe cancer screening:


  • Patients will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the entrance to the building or facility of the breast screening centre.
  • Screening centres may have special instructions for arriving at your appointment, such as not arriving too early for your appointment. This is to encourage physical distancing and to reduce the number of patients inside the centre at one time. 
  • To support physical distancing, screening centres will rearrange waiting areas and allow for more time between appointments.
  • Mammography equipment and exam rooms will be frequently cleaned and sanitized in accordance with provincial guidelines.
  • To minimize the time you are in the waiting room and to help stop the spread of germs, paper information surveys have been temporarily discontinued.
  • Healthcare staff will also be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect you and others.
  • Health care staff are instructed to remain at home and not come to work if they are sick.
  • Hand sanitizer and/or hand washing stations will be available.
  • Un-scheduled, "walk-in" appointments will not be accommodated at this time.

A mammogram requires the technologist to place your breast on a special x-ray machine. The technologist will need to come close to you for a small amount of time to help position you to obtain the best images possible. All technologists will be wearing PPE to ensure your safety.‎

 

You will be contacted by phone to book a new appointment time.


If you have not been contacted by June 15, 2020, please contact the Breast Screening Program at 1-800-663-9203.

Reminder notices will resume in June. At this time, we are prioritizing bookings to accommodate those who were cancelled during the suspension of services. Reminders will then be sent to those who were due for screening at time of suspension ahead of those who are coming due. When you receive your notice, we encourage you to call us at that time to book your screening mammography appointment.‎

 

There may be longer than usual wait-lists for appointments as screening centres catch-up on previously cancelled appointments.


Screening centres are operating with extended hours to ensure that they can catch-up on previously cancelled appointments in a safe manner. We appreciate your patience during this time.


Breast screening is a non-urgent test for those with no symptoms. It is very important that you reach out to your healthcare provider right away if you notice any new changes in your breast(s).

Screening aims to find cancers early, before there are symptoms. Returning for screening on a regular basis, when you receive your reminder notice, helps to minimize your risk of breast cancer.  However, a delay in regular screening mammograms for those women with no breast symptoms is unlikely to cause serious harm to most patients, particularly if the delay is only a matter of months.  The risk will gradually increase with further delay, but we encourage everyone to consider all their health concerns prior to returning to screen.


If you notice any new changes in your breast(s) please see your healthcare provider right away.

You will be contacted by a diagnostic facility by phone to arrange follow-up. If your screening mammogram was completed before March 18th, 2020 and you have not yet been contacted for additional testing, please contact Breast Screening Client Services at 1-800-663-9203 for more information.‎

 

The BC Cancer Breast Screening mobile units will be back in service in July. Please visit the clinic locator to see when the mobile unit is coming to your community.


To ensure patient safety and the safety of healthcare staff that operate the mobile service, the mobile mammography units will operate a modified schedule aimed at reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.


New measures will be in place to support safe cancer screening:


  • The mobile units will have enhanced cleaning and sanitization on a regular basis.
  • Only one patient at a time will be permitted within the mobile vehicle.
  • Un-scheduled, "walk-up" appointments cannot be accommodated at this time. Please call 1-800-663-9203 if you would like to book an appointment.
  • Healthcare staff will also be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect you and others.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available.

Yes. To protect the health of patients and health care staff, patients will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the entrance to the building or facility of the breast screening centre.


In most cases, COVID-19 screening will consist of a series of questions asked by healthcare staff.

You are encouraged to bring your own mask if you have one (surgical or home-made) to your appointment. Healthcare staff will also be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect you and others.

 

You will receive your results within approximately three weeks.


If your result is abnormal, you will be contacted directly by a diagnostic facility for follow-up.

If you have an abnormal result, the Breast Screening Program will refer you to a diagnostic facility for further follow-up.


The diagnostic facility will provide you with more information regarding your follow-up procedure date.

Breast screening is a non-urgent test for those with no symptoms. It is very important that you reach out to your healthcare provider right away if you notice any new changes in your breast(s).‎

 

Reminder notices for patients due for screening will resume.


Breast Screening Program eligibility, guidelines and processes have not changed.


Colon
FIT is now available in labs throughout the province. Find answers to common questions below. 

You can call 1-877-702-6566 if you have questions or visit this website at any time for updates.

 

FIT kits are available in labs in BC. If you have a requisition for FIT, you can go to the lab to pick one up.


If you no longer have your requisition for FIT, please contact the Colon Screening Program at 1-877-702-6566.


If you've never screened for colon cancer and are eligible, please contact your primary care provider to discuss whether the FIT is right for you. They can provide you a requisition to pick up a free FIT kit from the lab.


Labs temporarily suspended the distribution of FIT kits in March 2020 for the following reasons:


  • Colonoscopies were being cancelled or re-booked to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission during the procedure and to allow hospitals to better respond to the potential for a surge of COVID-19 patients requiring acute care.
  • Not going to a lab to pick up or drop off a FIT kit supported physical distancing, which assisted in efforts to minimize COVID-19 transmission in healthy people.


If you've picked up a FIT kit and have not completed it, you can now complete the test and return it to the lab. Before collecting your sample, please check the expiry date located on the label of the kit. If the kit is expired, please return it to the lab and ask for a new one.


Ensure you bring your requisition with you. 

If you've already picked up a FIT and completed it, now is the time to return the used FIT kit to the lab for safe disposal. Let the lab know your specimen was collected before the suspension and you will be provided a new FIT kit to repeat the test.


Ensure you bring your requisition with you to obtain your replacement kit. 

Please visit the website of your preferred lab for any COVID-19 related procedures or instructions.‎

 
Health authorities are re-booking procedures that were previously cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation.

Health authority staff will contact patients directly by phone to re-schedule their procedures.

Many colonoscopies in BC were temporarily suspended in March 2020 in order to:

  • Reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission during the procedure and allow hospitals to better respond to the potential for a surge of COVID-19 patients requiring acute care.
  • Support physical distancing, which assisted in efforts to minimize COVID-19 transmission in healthy people.
  • Ensure that limited colonoscopy resources during the COVID-19 outbreak were available 

Your Health Authority will inform you of any COVID-19 related procedures or instructions for your colonoscopy.

Your health authority has been sent a referral for pre-colonoscopy assessment. Health Authority staff will contact you by phone regarding pre-colonoscopy assessment and scheduling.

Screening is only recommended for people who are not experiencing symptoms.


Symptoms can include blood in your stool, abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, or unexplained weight loss. If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your health care provider about the diagnostic testing you may need to determine the cause of these symptoms. FIT is not appropriate for people with these symptoms.


Reminder notices for screening will resume.


As reminder notices were held for several weeks there is a high volume of notices that need to be sent. They will be sent out in a staged fashion over the coming weeks.


Patients with cancelled appointments at health authority facilities will be contacted directly by the facility regarding re-booking.


Patients with symptoms should be referred directly to a specialist for assessment. FIT is not required.

You can call 1-877-702-6566 if you have questions or visit this website at any time for updates.



Cervix

Cervix screening is being affected by the COVID-19 situation in BC. Find answers to common questions below.

Visiting your health care provider for the sole purpose of getting a Pap test is not recommended at this time for the following reasons:


  • A Pap test is a non-urgent, non-emergent screening test. By not visiting your health care provider, you are supporting physical distancing which will assist in efforts to minimize COVID-19 transmission in healthy people.

  • If you receive an abnormal Pap result, your follow-up procedure might be delayed. Health authorities are triaging procedures at colposcopy clinics based on the capacity of their health care facilities.

If you are experiencing symptoms such as abnormal vaginal bleeding (such as bleeding in between periods, bleeding during/after sex or after menopause), abnormal or persistent vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, or pain during sexual intercourse, please speak with your health care provider.

 
 

‎Screening is only recommended for people who are not experiencing symptoms.


Symptoms for cervical cancer can include abnormal vaginal bleeding (such as bleeding in between periods, bleeding during/after sex or after menopause), abnormal or persistent vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, or pain during sexual intercourse. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please speak with your health care provider. 

 

‎The Cervical Cancer Screening Laboratory will continue to process any Pap samples it receives, and primary care providers will continue to receive results.


Colposcopy clinics are triaging follow-up procedures and deferring procedures based on service priorities.


Patients with significant symptoms including post coital bleeding, persistent intermenstrual bleeding and/or a persistent vaginal discharge that cannot be explained by benign causes such as infection should have a speculum examination by someone with experience in cervical disease. Referral to a colposcopist is appropriate and may be expedited if the clinical suspicion is high. A Pap test is not required for referral.


Patients who have been recommended for colposcopy should still be referred. As colposcopy services may be limited during the COVID-19 pandemic, colposcopy clinics will prioritize colposcopy examinations based on risk estimation.


The need for follow-up Pap tests for previous mild abnormalities (ASC-US and LSIL) should be considered in the context of the ongoing pandemic.


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