Reports are emerging about how cancer treatment is being deprioritized, postponed, and withdrawn as the world faces the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. All who have recently been diagnosed with cancer or are in the midst of cancer treatment are facing disruption for all the most critical treatments and care as a new study of ‘Cancer Care Delivery Challenges Amidst Coronavirus Disease-19 (COVID-19) Outbreak’ states. The re-prioritization of healthcare facilities during the pandemic is also affected by procedures such as surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, and cancer screening and diagnosis. For many years to come, these decisions taken under the duress of the pandemic would have serious consequences on the future of Cancer Treatment.
The future of Cancer Treatment will be determined by reducing patients’ in-person visits by pre-consultation and follow-up appointments by telemedicine portals using either audio or video facilities. Immunotherapy will increase the cytokine surge in the body and this is also a complication of COVID infection, so it is important to take a very careful decision to administer immunotherapy. If a major surgery or chemotherapy can be deferred in the multi-modality treatment of a patient by beginning with either radiation therapy or hormone therapy, the treatment sequence can be modified without creating a drawback to the cancer care results.
Because of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, cancer research will face one of the most important recessions in its history. The effects would be important not only for the short term (the next few months) but also for the long term (the next few years). Medical research may be funded from an economic point of view by the government, cancer societies, pharmaceutical companies, or other voluntary organizations, such as in the UK.
In addition, because of the redirection of funds for the SARS-CoV-2 trial, several resources related to the creation of new cancer drugs will be lost. In reality, a portion of the pharmaceutical companies’ government funds and money devoted to cancer therapy trials will be diverted to research on COVID-19 identification, testing, treatment, and vaccines. This would lead to slower evolution of cancer trials, a pause in the anticipated time of completion of the research, and thus expected outcomes.
Overall, disruption to the full range of medical cancer care facilities would likely have a significant impact on mortality associated with cancer. In high-income countries, a 5-10 percent decline in survival has been estimated, which will account for hundreds of thousands of excess deaths, dwarfing those caused by COVID-19, but we lack detailed mortality data that can be used to anticipate potential needs for cancer treatment.
Finally, it is a life-changing moment for the person, their family, and even health care providers to be diagnosed with cancer at any point in life. While we all pray and hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will subside and/or that a vaccine will be developed, we must not forget that if not diagnosed and treated at an early stage, there is still no cure for cancer. Prevention and early rehabilitation are still the best protection for it. It is also vital for the government to take all the appropriate steps to ensure that cancer patients continue to receive the attention, quality of care, and treatment they need to ensure the best chance of survival.