Background: Many countries appear to be ill-prepared in their emergency responses towards the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, particularly in managing chronic diseases such as cancer. We aimed to gain insight on the preparedness of health systems within low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in maintaining delivery of cancer care amid the pandemic.
Methods: We performed a rapid review of publications focusing on emergency contingency plans for cancer care during the pandemic in LMICs. An online desk research was conducted to identify relevant policy documents, guidelines or scientific publications.
Results: Very few LMICs had readily accessible documents to ensure continuity in delivery of cancer care during the pandemic. A majority of publications were focused on delivery of cancer treatment whereas early detection, diagnosis and delivery of supportive and survivorship care received very little attention. Far fewer of the published guidelines appear to have been formulated at the national level by governmental agencies. A vast majority of publications constituted consensus guidelines from professional societies, followed by sharing of best practices from local institutions. Overall, three main strategies have been recommended to maintain delivery of cancer care amid the pandemic in LMICs: 1) Modification of cancer treatment regimens, 2) Changes in methods of administration of curative and supportive cancer care and 3) Implementation of generic measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection in healthcare settings.
Conclusion: All LMICs should consider collating best practices from the current pandemic and translating them into an explicit cancer preparedness plan, which can be escalated during future disasters.