September 28, 2020
COVID-19’s Impact on Treating Cancer
- Preliminary data suggests COVID-positive patients can safely undergo treatment and surgery
- Physicians should review ACS guidelines to inform risk and help stratify cases
- Surgery does not appear to be an independent risk factor
Many gynecologic oncologists continue to evolve the way women are treated during COVID, but with largely less anxiety than when the pandemic first began. Dr. Elizabeth Jewell of Memorial Sloan Kettering says, “You can safely get COVID-positive patients and cancer patients through treatment and through surgery.”
“We were following a lot of the ACS guidelines around how to stratify cases – meaning: Who should go to surgery? Who should receive treatment? Surgery itself was not an independent risk factor.” Not all chemotherapy was found to be dangerous to patients, and the biggest improvements made have been pre-surgical testing strategies. Prior to surgery, all patients are tested for COVID, ideally within a 48-hour window.
All employees at Memorial Sloan Kettering are tested on a weekly basis. Dr. Thomas Herzog at the University of Cincinnati speaks to the frustration around being told different things on different days at the start of the pandemic, as it pertained to wearing masks, and other safety protocols. Conflicting information made doctors’ jobs more difficult at the outset.
Dr. Dana Chase of Arizona Oncology said they were almost at the point of not being able to operate on cancer cases, but thankfully a full shutdown did not happen. In-office care still took place, and Dr. Chase agreed that she, too, felt safest in the hospital. “Because of what New York went through, we were able to prevent some of that morbidity and mortality,” she says.