The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many health services, including services for people with cancer. This problem has not only occurred in Indonesia, but also in Asia over the past year.
Even though services remain available, some patients delay appointments, treatment, and follow-up appointments for fear of contracting the virus. Dr. Muhamad Yusuf SpOG, Gynaecological Oncologist explained, at Dharmais Cancer Hospital, Jakarta, there was a decrease in the number of patient visits, up to 37%.
There was a 9% decrease in visits for the first consultation and a 30% decrease in follow-up consultations at the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS) between February and March 2020, although these figures have recovered.
In addition, in a survey of 480 surgeons across India, an estimated 192,000 patients were likely to experience delays in timely diagnosis of cancer. What is the impact of delayed treatment and even screening on cancer patients?
Deaths of Cancer Patients with COVID-19 Increase
The study, published in the journal The Lancet in 2020, found that the mortality rate of cancer patients with COVID-19 increased by almost 39% compared to 8% who were not affected by COVID-19.
According to dr. Yusuf, when a cancer patient is infected with COVID-19, the symptoms are more severe. In addition, worsening symptoms is also faster. so that the patient’s mortality rate eventually becomes higher. “In fact, COVIS-19 patients with cancer who have a history of chemotherapy and radiation treatment have a 75% higher risk of death,” he explained in a webinar on the framework of the New Normal Campaign, Same Cancer, Thursday (10/12)
Given the extremely dangerous risks, it is natural that in the end cancer patients delay going to the hospital. It’s like dr. Yusuf, during the psbb period in Jakarta, there was a decrease in the number of cancer patients, even patients who should have undergone surgery were forced to postpone it.
Similarly, patients who are supposed to undergo radiotherapy, or simply visit an appointment with a doctor. After the PSBB era ended, patients began to return to the hospital and this caused new problems.
“During psbb transition, patients who come too much so it is difficult to do social distancing. In addition, there are limited medical personnel and facilities in hospitals that are inadequate, such as hospital rooms and negative pressure ICU that do not exist yet,” added dr. Yunus.
It’s not just patients who have been diagnosed with cancer who are having problems. During the pandemic, cancer screening or early detection also dropped by 60% compared to 2019 before the pandemic. This is certainly a problem, because the more delayed early detection, will delay the potential for cancer treatment as early as possible.
Cancer Treatment During Pandemic
After all, pandemics should not make screening and treatment of cancer patients delayed. To help protect people visiting cancer clinics, many health facilities have adapted their practices and implemented new solutions to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
To help protect people visiting cancer clinics, many health care facilities have adapted their practices and implemented new solutions to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission. For many countries, telehealth or telemedicine has become an important part of patient care, allowing health workers such as oncologists to examine their patients and conduct remote screening without patients needing to leave the home.
Oncologists in Southeast Asia have created a coalition with the cancer survivors community, calling on patients not to delay access to cancer services as part of the New Normal, Same Cancer campaign.
Although the long-term impact on patients is not yet fully known, recent research suggests that with a one-month delay treatment can lead to a 6% increased risk of death.