COVID-19: Cancer and screening services

Information and guidance on cancer and screening services during the COVID-19 response.

Page updated: 7 October 2020

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Managing haematology and oncology patients during the COVID-19 pandemic

The following guidance is for clinicians managing patients with cancer, phased according to community spread and disruption to normal health systems.

The guidance has been endorsed by the Clinical Assembly of the Cancer Control Agency. It is regularly updated and is a consensus piece of work. The link is to a Google drive with the latest version and clinical feedback.

Screening services

Cancer screening programmes are continuing to operate, with appropriate safeguards in place to keep participants and staff safe. At Alert Levels 2 and 3, it is recommended that people over 70, or with pre-existing medical conditions, check with their health professional as to whether it is safe to attend appointments.  

  • Cervical and breast screening will continue for most women. The decision to screen those with existing medical conditions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • Bowel screening invitations and home testing kits will continue to be sent out. If you receive a kit in the mail you should complete it and send it back as soon as possible.
  • More information about bowel, breast and cervical screening can be found on the Time to Screen website.

Antenatal and newborn screening services will continue to be provided. There will be some changes at different Alert Levels to ensure the ongoing safety of women and babies. More information can be found on the National Screening Unit website.

Impact of COVID-19 on cancer services

The purpose of this analysis by the Cancer Control Agency is to rapidly measure the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown on cancer services.

The working report has found that cancer treatment services were largely maintained during the COVID-19 lockdown. This was the result of a rapid collective response from the cancer sector across New Zealand, with strong central leadership from the Cancer Control Agency.

However, there was a large disruption to diagnostic services, contributing to a significant reduction in new cancer diagnoses. In general, the disruptions to the cancer care pathway have not increased inequities for Māori to date. 

Further analysis will be done as the data becomes available.

Read the working report:

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