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Cancer patients urged to resume treatment

/ 05:42 AM December 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Leading oncologists across Asia urged cancer patients to resume their treatments and routine checkups, which significantly dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Philippines, 85 percent of 92 oncologists surveyed saw a decrease in the number of cancer patients seen daily while 74 percent had patients who deteriorated or died for not being able to seek urgent care in the hospital.

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The survey also found that 94 percent of scheduled chemotherapy treatments were delayed by at least one to two weeks, and up to more than eight weeks during the pandemic.

“Patients with cancer are faced with the double-edged sword of the increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection against the consequences of delaying effective anticancer therapies,” said internist and oncologist Dr. Frederic Ting who disclosed the survey during an online press briefing on Wednesday.

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Dr. Antonio Ramos, a thoracic surgeon specializing in cancer cases and manager of the administrative services department of the Lung Center of the Philippines, said cancer patients should not fear going back to hospitals.

“We cancer caregivers have taken great measures to ensure that you are safe in health facilities. Do not delay treatment because we are ready to take care of you,” he said in the online briefing with other oncologists in the region.

In the early months of the pandemic, said Ramos, there were “zero consultations” for cancer patients because the outpatient building was used as a triage area to screen suspect COVID-19 cases.

“Our patients were afraid to mingle with COVID-19 patients,” he said.

Eventually, the hospital put in place protocols for non-COVID-19 cases to be screened separately.

“Now I have yet to hear a cancer patient get sick in a COVID hospital,” Ramos said, adding that the few hospital staff who tested positive for the coronavirus were infected in the community and not in the hospital.

The Philippine General Hospital averaged 150 to 200 cancer patients daily before the pandemic.

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In April, at the height of the lockdown, patient visits to the cancer clinic went down by 90 percent to only 20 patients daily.

Ting said hospitals are now more prepared with safety protocols to handle cancer patients.

“So we hope to spread the word to not delay their cancer treatment,” he said.

Despite the protocols, Ramos said cancer patient consultations were still few compared to before the COVID-19 lockdown. The drop in the number of patients accessing cancer services was seen across Asia.

A coalition of experts from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore urged patients to resume treatments and diagnosis without delay to give the treatment the best chance of success.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: Cancer, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Health, oncologist, pandemic, Virus
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