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Global pandemic leads to more advanced-stage cancer: ASTRO survey

pandemic cancer

COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the world, impacting every small aspect of life, creating horror and unease in the human minds. It also left its mark on the health and economic sector. As the Coronavirus cycles through society, we adapt to it, and it’s becoming a second nature thing, a new ‘normal.’ Scientists and biomedical experts of the community are still improvising and improving day by day. Vaccines are now available. Experts are trying to make effective anti-viral drugs. Cytokine storm, responsible for fueling most of the Covid deaths, is identified, and research on treatment is underway. ASTRO (American Society for Radiation Oncology) survey reveals that pandemic leads to more advanced-stage cancer.

Cancer patients, their relatives, and caretakers are being affected by Coronavirus. Even though cancer patients have higher chances of getting sick from the coronavirus than the common general population and are significantly more likely to die from COVID-19 once infected, the key thing at risk is changing the ongoing cancer treatment. Besides, cancer patients are heavily advised to discuss their worries about how their treatment can move forward amid the global pandemic. So that they can work together and make such a plan that enforces cancer care and reduces the risks of Covid-19. Therefore, it is only possible through strict safety measures and security protocols.

How coronavirus affects cancer patients

The symptoms of Coronavirus in cancer patients are almost identical to the symptoms of people without cancer. Treatment with steroids is studied to have reduced fever in Coronavirus patients.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Light Fever, heavy in some cases
  • Dry Coughing
  • Fatigue and tiredness all-day
  • Myalgia
  • Migraine and Head Aches
  • Short breath
  • Nausea and diarrhea

A new study suggests that people spread the virus subconsciously without them knowing because no symptoms appear in them. Symptoms tend to show up after 3 to 15 days in most cases. In some asymptomatic people, symptoms never appear, yet they continuously spread the virus to others without knowing it.


Patients treated by radiation, steroids, and immunotherapy have reduced immunity as compared to the general public. That is why vaccines are available at all such centers where cancer patients are being treated. The Corona vaccine was produced in late November 2020. According to clinical trials, the vaccine makes one immune to the Coronavirus for three months at a minimum. This study was conducted in the US, and volunteers were monitored.

Survey for Advanced-Stage Cancer

We all know the COVID-19 pandemic laid unprecedented effects around the globe. In most areas, it led to an extreme reduction in not-so-critical medical appointments. Delay of some of these visits may have a serious health impact, including delayed diagnosis for melanoma and other cancers. We examined the impact of Covid-19 on Cancer rates and advanced-stage cancer diagnosis. The study included a very large amount of the mass population.

ASTRO recently did a survey. Surgeons who supervise cancer hospitals reported that patients received after the COVID-19 pandemic have a more advanced form of cancer.

The survey report shows some major improvements in safety protocols conducted in cancer hospitals and clinics relative to last year. It states that the postponement of cancer checkups, which was normal to occur when the pandemic started, has now long gone. Because of the new, improved safety measures are taken by the government and the hospitals to safeguard their incoming patients and health workers, cancer clinics have started doing the job. This survey was held nationwide all over US lands.

Thomas J. Eichler, Director at ASTRO says:

“One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we already see the consequences of pandemic-driven drops in cancer screening and diagnostics,” 

66% of the Radiologists said new patients are coming with more advanced-stage cancers. 73% reported that patients are not being checked for cancer. Others believed that already existing patients were experiencing disruption in their radiation procedures of treatment because of the pandemic (66%).

Safety Protocols

Improved safety protocols are currently implemented across all radiation treatment clinics and hospitals. Wearing of masks is made compulsory for patients and staff, followed by 99% of the general population. Finding unrecognized risk markers for the Coronavirus exposure has rates equivalent to 95%, social distancing in health centers being followed by 100%.

Increased sterilization is commonly followed by 93%. In addition, face shields for staff during procedures consist of 80%, and no-visitor policies have a quite substantial rate of 73% are also common. These safety measures are almost followed all around the globe.

“Safety is at the core of radiation oncology, and clinics were ready to adapt quickly and ramp up protective measures that keep their staff and patients safe from COVID-19 exposure,” said Dr. Eichler.

The inspection found that clinics and hospitals have mostly stopped conceding or delaying radiation treatments. In the early months of 2021, only 15% of the patients reported having been delayed for treatment, compared to 92% in March and April 2020, which is quite progressive. Likewise, only 12% informed that clinics are still rejecting new cancer patients in 2021. This, compared to the 75% being refused to check in late 2020 because of fewer security protocols, is a drastic improvement.

At the start of 2021, 4 in 10 radiation oncologists stated that there is difficulty retrieving a personal Covid protective kit, including medical grade k95 masks, hand antiseptics, and other important equipment. 53% of the physicians reported that Coronavirus vaccines are limited in numbers at their respective medical centers. So, their hard work to vaccinate locals has partial results. Recent findings also tell that more than 50% of the health staff in US hospitals and clinics are still not vaccinated. The report was issued in March 2021.

Efforts of ASTRO

American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) made an alliance with the American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (an association of 31 cancer centers in the United States) against the stop of cancer screening and checkups. Their point was to highlight that Covid-19 is here to stay while cancer won’t wait. The role of the government is to provide useful medical gear and vaccines for cancer centers so the treatment can continue.

Clinical guidance to vaccinate cancer patients who are not allergic to the vaccine is one of ASTRO’s latest efforts so that critical cancer patients can go through their radiation treatments without any health risk. All patients are heavily advised to get their vaccines by contacting their respective Cancer treatment centers.

Additional Survey Findings

Furthermore, the survey found that Private radiology centers are reported to have received more advanced-stage cancer patients than cancer centers associated with universities. This means that the situation has to be tackled with complex measures because all clinics are affected differently.

The survey also reported that the supply of personal protective equipment and other gear related to Covid was extremely limited at private health care centers. Studies also showed that various problems occurred related to vaccine arrangements in various areas, mostly not urban.

Telemedicine uses phone calls and video conferences to give healthcare at a distance, following social distancing and 0 risks. The phone calls are billed according to the complication of health care given. According to a report, 85% of the health centers offered telemedicine support to their former, current patients. Moreover, 54% of clinics were reported giving telemedicine support to new patients. Lastly, 15% of radiology departments also offered medical assistance to their patients.

Due to the pandemic, Radiology treatment centers also faced economic and functional trials. The survey shows a 73% decrease in the number of patients because of the ongoing pandemic. Many hospitals and clinics also faced staff shortage issues because no one was willing to risk their health for their job.

However, every physician who took part in the survey said that their medical centers and radiation treatment didn’t stop working, although they faced many challenges. Only 7% of the health centers in remote locations were closed, according to the survey report.

Survey Method

The survey was conducted online by electronic mail. As many as 509 oncologists of the radiation department in the ASTRO database were sent the survey via email. All of these 509 directors of radiation oncology were recognized as heads of the board of the United States Radiology department. Almost 117 physicians were a part of this online survey conducted on 7 Feb 2021 (Equivalent to 23% response).


To conclude, all the front Healthline workers, medical staff, US government, and ASTRO are trying to make the process of cancer treatment more risk-free. On average, as you can read, there has been a drastic improvement in health facilities and safety protocols.

At the start of the pandemic, cancer clinics went through a shortage of medical staff and protective gear, which led to Advanced stage cancers in some patients. However, now that most areas have vaccines and personal protective equipment available, patients are more likely to come for checkups and treatment.

Written by HealthRadar360


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