Cancer Treatment Continues During Pandemic


Even during a global pandemic, cancer treatment must go on, but doctors and cancer patients are facing unforeseeable dilemmas.

The federal government has recommended health centers delay nonessential surgeries to lower virus transmission and to cater the immediate demand for personal protective equipment, beds and medical supplies for COVID-19 patients. The recommendation presents significant disruptions and changes to current cancer treatments.

Individuals battling cancer are often immunocompromised. They are among those high in risk of serious consequences if infected with the virus. Yet, a delay in any form of treatment—surgery, chemotherapy and radiation— could present a chance of tumor growth.

“Cancer patients are more susceptible to COVID- 19. Especially older cancer patients, patients with advanced cancer, or patients with post chemo radiation therapy, and those with hematologic malignancies,” says Dr. Lin, a board certified pathologist.

With limited data on the effects of the new coronavirus on cancer patients, doctors are questioning whether the safest option is to keep treatment continuous or lower patient’s risk for virus contraction.

“Most patient and doctor appointments are shifted online but necessary procedures such as surgery, or cancer screenings like CTs and MRIs are still ongoing.”

In the current situation, defining what is deemed as “essential surgery” can change depending on coronavirus cases and resources available. Meanwhile, treatment centers are trying to a balanced approach to access treatment at low risks.

“We take safety precautions very seriously. Our hospital staff…must have daily screenings for coronavirus symptoms and wearing PPE before entering patient’s room,” Dr. Lin says.

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