“Dr. Sheila Singh is used to explaining complex medical situations in simple terms. The pediatric neurosurgeon at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton says that lately, she’s seeing too many oranges and grapefruits and fewer ping pong balls.

That’s not good, and it could signal that the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the diagnosis of many pediatric diseases, sometimes with devastating results.

‘You can imagine a tumour that’s the size of a ping pong ball, it’s easier for me to work around and remove it,’ she said. ‘But if that ping pong ball-sized tumour grows to the size of an orange or a grapefruit, the tumour has grown to a size where it’s much more difficult now to deal with.’

Singh told Dr. Brian Goldman, host of White Coat Black Art, that she is now seeing two to three times more oranges and grapefruits than before the pandemic. In other words, the tumours have been left to grow much longer due to delays in diagnosis.

Singh says she believes the delays in diagnosis have been caused by patients staying away from hospitals because:

  • They are afraid of catching COVID-19.
  • There is a lack of in-person visits with their family doctor.
  • There is an anchor bias to look for COVID-19 symptoms to the detriment of flagging other serious diseases.

‘There’s no doubt there will be collateral damage,’ she said, ‘and some of that will be death and poor outcomes from diseases that could have had better outcomes.’

More on Late diagnosis of tumours in children collateral damage of COVID-19, doctors say via CBC Radio.

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