Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on care of oncological patients: experience of a cancer center in a Latin American pandemic epicenter

Sérgio Eduardo Alonso Araujo Alessandro Leal Ana Fernanda Yamazaki Centrone Vanessa Damazio Teich Daniel Tavares Malheiro Adriana Serra Cypriano Miguel Cendoroglo Neto Sidney Klajner About the authors

ABSTRACT

Objective

Since the rising of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, there is uncertainty regarding the impact of transmission to cancer patients. Evidence on increased severity for patients undergoing antineoplastic treatment is posed against deferring oncologic treatment. We aimed to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on patient volumes in a cancer center in an epicenter of the pandemic.

Methods

Outpatient and inpatient volumes were extracted from electronic health record database. Two intervals were compared: pre-COVID-19 (March to May 2019) and COVID-19 pandemic (March to May 2020) periods.

Results

The total number of medical appointments declined by 45% in the COVID-19 period, including a 56.2% decrease in new visits. There was a 27.5% reduction in the number of patients undergoing intravenous systemic treatment and a 57.4% decline in initiation of new treatments. Conversely, there was an increase by 309% in new patients undergoing oral chemotherapy regimens and a 5.9% rise in new patients submitted to radiation therapy in the COVID-19 period. There was a 51.2% decline in length of stay and a 60% reduction in the volume of surgical cases during COVID-19. In the stem cell transplant unit, we observed a reduction by 36.5% in length of stay and a 62.5% drop in stem cell transplants.

Conclusion

A significant decrease in the number of patients undergoing cancer treatment was observed after COVID-19 pandemic. Although this may be partially overcome by alternative therapeutic options, avoiding timely health care due to fear of getting COVID-19 infection might impact on clinical outcomes. Our findings may help support immediate actions to mitigate this hypothesis.

COVID-19; Coronavirus infections; Neoplasms; Latin America; Oncological, care

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