Cancer screening services suspended due to COVID-19

GI cancer

By Michael Woodhead

6 Apr 2020

Breast cancer screening services have been suspended due to COVID-19 and the pandemic has also disrupted bowel cancer and cervical cancer screening programs.

The Department of Health says breast screening services across Australia have temporarily closed [as] “a precautionary measure to protect women, the BreastScreen staff and the general population from exposure to COVID-19.”

While no new screening bookings are being taken, Breastscreen providers will continue to provide assessment services for women who have had a recent screening mammogram and will provide the results, including whether further investigations are recommended.

State-based programs such as Breastscreen WA (BSWA) have advised women over 40 that the services will be resumed as soon as is safe and practical, and in the meantime they should be vigilant for early symptoms of breast cancer.

“BSWA has carefully considered the clinical risks around temporary closure and for clients with no symptoms; the risk of developing breast cancer during this short period is very low,” said BreastScreen WA Medical Director Dr Liz Wylie.

“The closure will also allow BSWA to release clinicians to support any surge demand in response to COVID-19; reduce the demand on Personal Protective Equipment which would otherwise be required if we continue to operate, and to reduce the demand on the acute sector from referrals for treatment,”

Lack of access to GP appointments for FOBT results and follow up referrals for colonoscopy may also impact the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, according to the government’s Cancer Screening site.

“COVID-19 may be impacting your usual GP, so if you have received a result and have any questions, please call your doctor. If you are unable to leave home to visit your GP, you can access GP services through telehealth. If you have any questions about your bowel screening kit, contact the National Cancer Screening Register,” it advises.

Similarly, the National Cervical Screening Program may be disrupted by women being unable to access their usual GP or  cervical testing provider for the HPV Cervical Screening Test.

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