Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on patients seeking cancer therapy at a cancer hospital in Sri Lanka
Background: Every sixth death in the world is caused by cancer and it is
estimated that nearly 10 million deaths in 2020 are attributed to cancer.
Uninterrupted management is instrumental for the quality of life and prognosis
of these patients. Delivering care for patients with cancer during COVID 19
crisis is challenging. Empirical evidence of the impact of COVID 19 in the
management of cancer patients is vital for implementing appropriate measures to
continue cancer care while battling COVID 19 pandemic.
Aim: To assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the
management of cancer patients at Apeksha Hospital, Sri Lanka.
Methods: A descriptive cross sectional study was carried out at
Apeksha Hospital from April 2020 to September 2020. Ethical approval was
obtained from the Ethics Review Committee of KIU (KIU/ERC/20/60). A sample of
225 patients with cancer, aged 18 years or older were enrolled in the study.
Critically ill patients or patients experiencing an acute psychiatric episode
were excluded from the study. Pre-tested interviewer-administered questionnaire
was used for data collection. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics
such as frequencies, percentages, means, and standard deviations. IBM SPSS
version 25 was used as the data analysis tool.
Results: The mean age of the participants was 42±14 years. Majority
of the participants were unmarried (n=151, 67.1%), females (n=158, 70.2%). The commonly
reported cancers were, blood cancer (n= 50, 22.2%), breast cancer (n=43, 19.1%),
ovarian cancer (n=29, 12.9%), sarcoma (n=23, 10.2%) and cervical cancer (n=22,
9.8%). The majority (n=222, 98.6%) reported that their treatment was delayed due
to COVID-19. Withholding clinics (n=173, 76.9%), fear of COVID 19 (n=161, 71.6%),
lack of chemotherapy drugs (n=90, 40.0 %), delay in CT/MRI scan (n=89, 39.6%),
lack of transport facilities (n=68, 30.2%), lockdown condition (n=53, 23.6%), financial
issues (n=31, 13.8%) and postponing surgeries (n=16, 7.1%) were the commonly
reported reasons found for the delay in treatments. Only 16% (n=36) had sought
alternative methods such as faith pacification, seeking ayurvedic treatments and
getting temporary treatment from the family doctor to manage the progress of cancer
during the COVID-19 period.
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic substantially disrupted cancer
management. The study highlights the necessity of appropriate provisions to
continue cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.