PURPOSE: COVID-19 infection has manifested as a major threat to both patients and healthcare providers around the world. Radiation oncology institutions (ROI) deliver a major component of cancer treatment, with protocols that might span over several weeks, with the result of increasing susceptibility to COVID-19 infection and presenting with a more severe clinical course when compared with the general population. The aim of this manuscript is to investigate the impact of ROI protocols and performance on daily practice in the high-risk cancer patients during this pandemic.
METHODS: We addressed the incidence of positive COVID-19 cases in both patients and health care workers (HCW), in addition to the protective measures adopted in ROIs in Germany, Austria and Switzerland using a specific questionnaire.
RESULTS: The results of the questionnaire showed that a noteworthy number of ROIs were able to complete treatment in SARS-CoV‑2 positive cancer patients, with only a short interruption. The ROIs reported a significant decrease in patient volume that was not impacted by the circumambient disease incidence, the type of ROI or the occurrence of positive cases. Of the ROIs 16.5% also reported infected HCWs. About half of the ROIs (50.5%) adopted a screening program for patients whereas only 23.3% also screened their HCWs. The range of protective measures included the creation of working groups, instituting home office work and protection with face masks. Regarding the therapeutic options offered, curative procedures were performed with either unchanged or moderately decreased schedules, whereas palliative or benign radiotherapy procedures were more often shortened. Most ROIs postponed or cancelled radiation treatment for benign indications (88.1%). The occurrence of SARS-CoV‑2 infections did not affect the treatment options for curative procedures. Non-university-based ROIs seemed to be more willing to change their treatment options for curative and palliative cases than university-based ROIs.
CONCLUSION: Most ROIs reported a deep impact of SARS-CoV‑2 infections on their work routine. Modification and prioritization of treatment regimens and the application of protective measures preserved a well-functioning radiation oncology service and patient care.
- Patient care
- Radiation oncoloy