The Effect of COVID-19 on Skin Cancer Treatment

December 15, 2020

COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges across the medical industry, and cancer treatment is no exception. Several articles have already been published that examine the impact the pandemic has had on the treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). In light of the increased risk of surgery, there are recommendations to consider non-operative treatments like radiotherapy to treat NMSC in order to continue providing treatment while reducing physical risk to patients, and limiting patient/staff exposure.

COVID RT: Assessing the Impact of COVID-19

COVID RT is a UK based collaboration that has examined changes in radiotherapy treatment schedules throughout the pandemic and the impact of these changes on patient outcomes. As the pandemic began to peak in the UK, significant changes to radiotherapy treatment protocols were recommended as a result of COVID-19 on staff levels and maintaining patient safety.

COVID RT also stated that the COVIDSurg collaborative found that an estimated 30% of scheduled cancer surgeries were cancelled in the first few months of the pandemic, and that almost a quarter of  cancer surgery patients developed a peri-operative COVID-19 infection. In light of this, COVIDSurg currently recommends that clinicians promote non-surgical treatment options when possible, and delay surgery for at-risk patients. One of the non-surgical options is radiation therapy. See the full article here.

Reconsidering the Role of Hypofractionated Radiotherapy

Professor Michael Veness of the Westmead Cancer Centre recently published a paper on hypofractionated radiotherapy in patients with NMSC in the post COVID-19 era. Many clinicians have favored the use of radiotherapy, specifically hypofractionated schedules, during this crisis in order to limit patient and staff exposure. Veness predicts an “unprecedented surge” in patients being referred for radiotherapy treatment of NMSC in the months ahead.

“In the months ahead post COVID-19 we are likely to witness an unprecedented surge in referral of patients, including those with NMSC, for consideration of RT.” – Michael Veness

Read his full article here, which presents the clinical justification for both the definitive and adjunct role of radiotherapy for NMSC and how hypofractionated regimes should be considered. Hypofractionation for many NMSC patients brings with it benefits in reducing lengthy waiting times and making best use of the limited resources during this ongoing crisis.

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