Delaying treatment of diseases such as cancer due to Covid is landing patients in a situation where chances of their survival seems bleak. This has been pointed out by oncologists of Delhi’s Apollo Hospitals.
They have said that patients in stage 1 of cancer, who came in February 2020 for treatment and had to come for therapies as follow up, have now reached stage 3 of cancer when they again turned up for the crucial treatment.
The doctors pointed out that the patients feared getting the infection which delayed the treatment.
The doctors stressed that most patients reporting advanced stages of cancer are over 60 years of age who mostly suffer from co-morbidities like diabetes, cardiac ailments and hypertension and hence are the most apprehensive to step out of homes or seek doctors consultation.
Dr SM Shuaib Zaidi, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, said “In India, 50-60 percent of patients seek medical treatment in the advanced stages due to lack of awareness and timely screening. With the current pandemic, this percentage has gone up by at least 40% due to Covid fear.”
“In the month of September- October, we have seen an upsurge in patients being diagnosed with stage 2 and stage 3 cancer, some of them with bleak chances of recovery. Due to delay in detection the cancer has progressed in the past 6 months from a treatable- stage 1 condition, to a complex life threatening stage 3,” he added.
Explaining about such a case, Dr Zaidi said that 33 year old Sneha Singh from Delhi was operated for breast cancer at the hospital in February. Following the surgery, she had to undergo radiation therapy to eliminate any possibilities of re-occurrence. But with lockdown and fear of being exposed to Covid 19, Sneha delayed her radiation sessions for nearly six months.
In August, when she finally visited the hospital, cancer in her breasts had spread to other parts of her body. From a treatable stage, she had now advanced to a stage 3 cancer. Though, she is undergoing treatment but her chances of survival are now bleak.
Dr Ramesh Sarin, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, said, “With Covid-19 currently taking the front seat, preventive healthcare has been neglected the most. What we were able to do before Covid 19 as preventive measures for early detection of cancer in terms of screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer and head and neck cancers, has declined.”
“Additionally, for radiation and chemotherapy, while we have tried to reduce the duration of these sessions from 6 to 3 months, a major portion of these patients have been missing their treatment or have been irregular, for fear of visiting the hospital and being exposed to Covid 19. In the month of October, 7 out of 10 patients have missed their radiation sessions.”
“This puts the patients under threat of spread of cancer and consequent life threatening complications. With delayed preventive care and treatment we are under a lingering threat of increased cancer burden in the coming months,” added Dr Sarin.