COVID-19 represents a large health care system consuming problem worldwide, and two years after its onset the real impact among non-COVID disease is still undetermined. Since the pandemic outbreak, cancer patients encountered profound changes in health care accessibility with an unknown impact in their diagnosis and treatment.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study including a total of 500 first consult patients with lung cancer in a Portuguese Cancer Center during homologous time period, pre (2019) and in the COVID-19 era (2021). Our aim was to characterize and compare both groups in relation to patient’s initial performance status, disease staging and patient’s conditions to initiate systemic treatment, before and during COVID-19 pandemics.
We found no significant differences in age, gender distribution, time from 1st suspicious image exam to 1st consultation and staging on both groups. However, we observed a tendency towards frailty, with an increased number of patients presenting ECOG-PS >2 (26/250 in 2019 vs. 32/250), this functional deterioration explained the increased number of patients with no conditions to initiate systemic treatment and early referencing to best supportive care treatment (18% [45/250] in 2019 vs. 22% [54/250] in 2021).
We believe that pandemic impact in non-COVID-19 patients, particularly in lung cancer population, is still an emerging and crescent problem that societies and health care systems will need to address in coming years as a concerted effort involving increased investment in the detection and treatment of cancer patients, in order to gradually recover pre-COVID-19 health levels.
Legal entity responsible for the study
Has not received any funding.
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.