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Determining the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on adjuvant therapy for oral cancer – A matched-pair analysis
Arjun G Singh1, Florida Sharin1, Natarajan Ramalingam1, Vidisha Tuljapurkar1, Naveen Mummudi2, Kumar Prabhash3, Pankaj Chaturvedi1
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
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.
Department of Head and Neck Oncology, Tata Memorial Centre and HBNI, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None