According to a study published in the journal Lancet Oncology in May last year, between March 1 and May 31, 2020, the number of new patients registered decreased to 54 percent, patients who had follow-up visits decreased to 46 percent, chemotherapy decreased to 37 percent.
“During these two years of the pandemic, what we have observed is that many newly-diagnosed cancer patients in 2020 avoided hospital visits and thence the treatment, or shifted to alternative treatment modalities,” Manish Bhushan Pandey, Senior Consultant, Radiation Oncology, Action Cancer Hospital, Delhi, told IANS.
Pandey noted that with the delay in treatment they reached an advanced stage and lost the opportunity of cure.
According to a survey by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), nearly one in four cancer patients said the pandemic has made it more difficult to contact their providers with questions about their healthcare needs, and one in five said they are worried their cancer could be growing or returning due to delays and interruptions caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We do not advise any delay in cancer treatment due to the present Covid situation as the disease may progress to a higher stage which may make the disease incurable,” Pandey said.
“The patients who are undergoing active treatment should continue their chemotherapy and radiotherapy provided they are in good general condition, not suffering from Covid related complications with adequate setup and infrastructure in the hospital,” he added
Further, the pandemic also led to economic losses due to loss of jobs. This also affected cancer patients, as people could not afford treatment.
“Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on the barriers to affordable healthcare that cancer patients have long faced,” said Nitesh Rohatgi, Senior Director of Medical Oncology at Fortis Cancer Institute in Gurugram.
The experts advised cancer patients to take a high protein diet as they are low on immunity levels.
Vaccines have shown to be safe in cancer patients. Besides getting vaccinated, they must avoid crowded places, maintain proper hand, social distancing, respiratory and lavatory hygiene and wear masks at all times, they said.
“Please remember that all the healthcare establishments are taking all precautions for the safety of their cancer patients so please don’t be afraid and don’t ignore your symptoms and keep on getting treatment for cancer,” Pandey said.