The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on paediatric cancer care: lessons learnt from a major paediatric oncology department in Turkey

14 Jan 2021
Mustafa Tezer Kutluk, Fahad Ahmed, Meral Kirazlı, İnci Yaman Bajin, Eren Müngen, Saniye Ekinci, Ferah Yıldız

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted cancer care. An audit at a major Paediatric Oncology Department in Turkey was performed to determine its impact on paediatric cancer care. A comparison was made among the number of daily paediatric cancer patients, diagnostic and treatment procedures. The data for the ‘COVID-19 period’ (10 March to 31 October 2020) were compared with the corresponding ‘prior year control period’ (10 March to 31 October 2019). Moreover, presentation delay (duration between first symptoms to healthcare visit) was calculated for new cases. The findings indicate that the mean 34.7 outpatients per day during ‘COVID-19 period’ was significantly lower than the ‘prior year control period’ (52.2). There were 17.7 inpatients per day during the ‘COVID-19 period’ which was significantly lower than 23.8 inpatients per day during the ‘prior year control period’. Significant reduction in the daily mean number of patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery and imaging studies during the ‘COVID-19 period’ was also evident. A negative trend in the diagnosis of new paediatric cancers was evident with 128 new cancer cases during the ‘COVID-19 period’, whereas the corresponding number was 212 for the ‘prior year control period’. The presentation delay (median 31 days) remain unchanged during the ‘COVID-19 period’. The findings suggest significant damage to paediatric cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Appropriate obligatory actions by oncology societies and policymakers can minimise longer term negative impacts.

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