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Determining the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on adjuvant therapy for oral cancer – A matched-pair analysis

1 Department of Head and Neck Oncology, Tata Memorial Centre and HBNI, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Radiation Oncology, Tata Memorial Centre and HBNI, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
3 Department of Medical Oncology, Tata Memorial Centre and HBNI, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Pankaj Chaturvedi,
Department of Head and Neck Oncology, Tata Memorial Centre and HBNI, Mumbai, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_186_21

Background: The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has hard-pressed the health care systems beyond their capabilities, causing a lack of appropriate cancer treatment delivery. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of pandemic-related restrictions on adjuvant therapy delivery for oral cancer patients during these demanding times. Materials and Methods: Oral cancer patients who were operated on between February and July 2020 and scheduled to receive prescribed adjuvant therapy during the COVID-19-related restrictions (Group I) were included in the study. The data were matched for the length of hospital stay and type of prescribed adjuvant therapy, with a set of patients who were similarly managed 6 months preceding the restrictions (Group II). Demographic and treatment-specific details, including inconveniences faced in procuring prescribed treatment, were obtained. Factors associated with delay in receiving adjuvant therapy were compared using regression models. Results: A total of 116 oral cancer patients were considered for analysis, comprising 69% (n = 80) adjuvant radiotherapy alone and 31% (n = 36) concurrent chemoradiotherapy. The mean hospital stay was 13 days. In Group I, 29.3% (n = 17) of patients were not able to receive any form of their prescribed adjuvant therapy at all, which was 2.43 times higher than Group II (P = 0.038). None of the disease-related factors significantly predicted delay in receiving adjuvant therapy. Of the delay, 76.47% (n = 13) was present during the initial part of the restrictions, with the most common reason being unavailability of appointments (47.1%, n = 8), followed by inability to reach treatment centers (23.5%, n = 4) and redeem reimbursements (23.5%, n = 4). The number of patients who were delayed the start of radiotherapy beyond 8 weeks after surgery was double in Group I (n = 29) than in Group II (n = 15; P = 0.012). Conclusions: This study highlights a small part of the rippling effect the COVID-19 restrictions have on oral cancer management and pragmatic actions may be needed by policymakers to deal with such challenges.

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