Hyderabad: A new study has revealed that the diagnosis and management of cancer have substantially been affected due to healthcare disruptions following COVID 19 pandemic.
A study conducted by a team of doctors and scientists of 41 different cancer hospitals institutes of India has been published in The Lancet. The research was aimed to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer care in India.
According to the study, between March 1 and May 31, 2020, the number of cancer patients who visited different hospitals dropped by 54 percent.
As per the researchers, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the delivery of oncology services in India. The long-term impact of cessation of cancer screening and delayed hospital visits on cancer stage migration and outcomes are likely to be substantial.
Between March 1 and May 31, 2020, the number of new patients registered decreased from 112270 in 2019 during the same period to 51760 in 2020. The patients who had follow-up visits decreased from 634745 to 340984 (46 percent reduction), hospital admissions decreased from 88801 to 56885 (36 percent reduction).
The outpatient chemotherapy decreased from 173634 to 109107 (37 percent reduction), the number of major surgeries decreased from 17120 to 8677 (49 percent reduction), minor surgeries from 18004 to 8630 (52 percent reduction), patients accessing radiotherapy from 51142 to 39365 (23 percent reduction), pathological diagnostic tests from 398373 to 246616 (38 percent reduction), number of radiological diagnostic tests from 93449 to 53560 (43 percent reduction), and palliative care referrals from 19474 to 13890 (29 percent reduction).
These reductions were even more marked between April and May 2020. Cancer screening was stopped completely or was functioning at less than 25 percent of usual capacity at more than 70 percent of centers. Reductions in the provision of oncology services were higher at centers in tier-1 cities than smaller cities and towns.
"These reductions in numbers reflect huge numbers of patients with cancer who have dropped off the system. And will result in hundreds of thousands of cancer deaths over the next few years," said Dr Pramesh CS, one of the authors of the paper and Director, Tata Memorial Centre, the most advanced cancer treatment center in India.
Dr. Pramesh said they have looked only at cancer and not evaluated the impact of COVID-19 on other critical diseases like cardiac, renal, tuberculosis, mental health, and conditions like perinatal care, immunization of children, and many others. "These are truly sobering statistics. The impact of COVID-19 on healthcare is likely to go far beyond the COVID-19 deaths that we see. Pandemic preparedness is key. We should ensure that critical non-pandemic healthcare continues uninterrupted during the pandemic," he said.