Addressing key concerns during this lockdown period in the care and safe-keeping of cancer patients, Onco.com conducted a webinar session featuring a panel of oncologists. Below are excerpts from the webinar which highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients and their treatment, and the importance of tele-consultation during this time.
The immediate impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients
Due to the lockdown, the immediate impact was due to the shut down of transport facilities. Patients were not able to reach the hospitals in time.
What are the risks of coronavirus for cancer patients?
The risks depend on the type of treatment protocol and other morbidities they may have have like diabetes. For treatments like chemotherapy, they may be immunosuppressed and chances of getting the COVID-19 infection may be high. Few recent studies have found that among patients diagnosed with COVID-19, the 20-30% had history of cancers. Other studies have also found that cancer patients are at a higher risks, and hence tele-consultation can be the best way to reduce the risk, especially for those who are scheduled for routine follow-ups. Additionally, the patients have to be informed about additional risks being involved within the hospitals and during travel, precautions to be taken helping them decide and plan if needed travel.
Is it to travel outside? Are there any alternate options for me during this time?
Public transport is not recommended and even with a personal transport, we don’t recommend more than one attendee (along with the patient). However, before traveling, it is adivsed to be connected with your treatment care team and take full use of digital to tele-consult an oncologist, to ensure continuity in the cancer care.
Importance of tele-consultation during this lockdown
The risks for the cancer patients are high and hence tele-consultation, should be considered except on few cases. Post consultation, and during the follow-up processes, tele-consultation is making us easier to connect with the patients through various modes such as WhatsApp and emails. Adding to that, the strong network we have within oncologists have helped us to connect our patients to reach to the nearest oncologist treatment or diagnostic centres. Hence, travel should be avoided except during critical times.
Who is required to undergo immediate treatment and who can postpone?
Patients who are undergoing surgery (which will be the only curative treatment), we advised them to undergo treatment. For major surgeries where the patients may need a prolonged ICU stay will be required, we advise them to postpone after assessing the risks and benefits. Due to the high wait lists for patients, we try to modify the treatment protocols, and ensuring some form of curative treatment is received.