In the oncology sectors, topics of discussion about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic stretch beyond risks of infections in immunocompromised patients and vaccination concerns and have recently centered on the reduced number of oncologic services utilized since early 2020.
In this issue of the journal ONCOLOGY®, research led by John Nakayama, MD, of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center in Ohio, looked at single-institution data to assess the impact of the pandemic on oncology care. In their research of close to 350,000 appointments related to oncologic services, they found that cancellation rates increased from 2019 to 2020 by about 5%. In addition, there were approximately 9% fewer surgeries overall in the first 10 months of 2020 as compared with the same time the year prior.
Unfortunately, these results are not unique to the research included in this journal. For example, a retrospective review of data regarding low-dose CT screenings for lung cancer showed that procedures were subject to high cancellation rates after suspension of services on March 13, 2020, and rates have remained low despite availability of full operation.1 In another study, screening and diagnostic mammograms fell by double-digit percentages in March 2020, with screening mammograms remaining below prepandemic levels in the months after services were resumed.2
Similarly, a population-based retrospective cohort study in Canada indicated an immediate 60% decrease in surgical volume starting on March 15, 2020, when compared with rates prior to the emergence of COVID-19.3
As services continue to slowly resume to normal volumes, caring for patients with these treatment delays in mind will be important for assessing the far-reaching impacts of the pandemic.
“There was a large increase in cancelled oncologic care in 2020 which has implications for delayed diagnosis and treatment,” Nakayama and colleagues wrote. “These delays could result in patients presenting with more advanced disease, complicating morbidities, and ultimately worse long-term outcomes.”
As always, the articles within these pages and more on breakthroughs in oncology across multidisciplinary specialties can be found at CancerNetwork.com, home of the journal ONCOLOGY®.