Road to recovery: Cancer in the COVID-19 era

Impacts on cancer diagnosis and care

Data on the pandemic’s health and health-care impacts is limited for populations that have been underserved including people with lower incomes, those living in rural or remote communities, people who belong to racial/ethnic minorities, and those with limited English proficiency. The available data does show that these communities face inequities in cancer diagnosis and care during the pandemic:

  • In Ontario, people living in lower income neighbourhoods are more likely to experience diagnostic delays following an abnormal breast or colorectal cancer screening test.1
  • 1 in 5 people who live in rural or remote communities report delays in receiving a cancer diagnosis.2
  • 1 in 6 people who live in rural or remote communities report delays between cancer diagnosis and starting treatment.2
  • The use of virtual care has substantially increased since the onset of the pandemic, but lower income individuals are less likely to access virtual care than those with higher incomes.3


  1. Walker MJ, Meggetto O, Gao J, Espino-Hernandez G, Jembere N, Bravo CA, et al. Measuring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on organized cancer screening and diagnostic follow-up care in Ontario, Canada: A provincial, population-based study. Prev Med. 2021; 151:106586.
  2. Canadian Cancer Society patient engagement survey. January 2022. Data available upon request.
  3. Canadian Institute for Health Information. Virtual care: A major shift for Canadians receiving physician services. 2022. Available from: