Cancer patients were afraid to visit a hospital because of the fear of COVID-19 which led them into an advanced cancer stage
Nearly 20% of the newly diagnosed patients are coming up late for the follow ups after entering the advanced stage of cancer which sometimes becomes hard to cure and sometimes even incurable. Recently an oncologist Doctor Jayanti Thumsi said,”I saw a 53 year old women who was aware of growth in her breast for more than a year but by the time she came to see the doctor, she was diagnosed in second stage and because of the fear of covid, she came in late for the treatments so by the time she came in for her follow-ups she was already in third stage and her cancer was incurable by that time”. Delays in starting treatment or breaks can allow cancer cell to grow. This is serious concern for the cancer patients who live in another city and seek treatment from hospitals in Bengaluru. More than 40% of patients in Vydehi cancer hospital, Aster CMI hospital, Cytecare hospital are from Bihar, northern states and West Bengal. Even though now everything has started and there is no longer any lockdowns, patients are sceptical about travelling in Public transport and not everyone is financially well enough to travel in personal vehicles.
According to a research paper, ‘Cancer care delivery challenges in India during the covid 19 Era: Are We Prepared for the post-pandemic shock?’ by the doctors of All India Institute of Medical science, Most people living in rural areas require to go to big cities in order to get cancer test or treatment but during lockdown, as there were no public transport available patients of rural areas weren’t able to go to cities for treatment which led to delays in diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Jeeva bhai, a cancer patient says, “I was diagnosed in my first stage itself but then due to lockdown I wasn’t able to travel from my village to here as there were no busses available so my cancer stage went from first to third and now I have been admitted in the ICU ward and my operation is day after tomorrow. My treatment during lockdown was delayed, I got the medicine instead of IV drip which did not affect me well.” The lockdown also hampered the cancer care delivery services which delivers the cancer care medicines. Even in Gujarat, three government hospitals were converted into covid centres with the capacity of 2000 beds and 800 ICU beds for covid patients and the cancer patients were shifted to a new building in the same campus. That led many cancer patients being infected with the covid virus in Gujarat.
Many cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, cancer drugs, stem transplant and radiology reduces the immunity of human body which makes it more at risk of contracting covid. Most patients are avoiding going to get a treatment until it becomes extremely necessary. For some people the treatment has been changed, if they were having treatment by drip, it was changed to medicine if possible and for some it has been delayed by the hospital. The hospitals reschedule the appointments if it’s less urgent.
The cancer hospitals in Bengaluru were open all the time but they postponed the follow up treatments of the patients because of covid fear. Vydehi cancer centre as well as cytecare cancer hospitals were seeing about 3-4 minimum diagnosed per day but now only 1 case per day. Although people are more afraid of being diagnosed with cancer, there is fear of contracting covid too. Vydehi cancer centre and cytecare cancer hospitals saw a 50% decrease in patients coming in for treatment. Dr.Rahul, an oncologist at Vydehi cancer centre said that they used to give treatment to minimum 50 cancer patients in a month before Pandemic but now there are only 25 cases. Aster CMI hospital has a special page about covid awareness for cancer patients and their caretakers so that they are more aware.
Cancer hospitals are taking special care of maintaining hygiene and cleaning the hospitals with sanitizers and disinfectant every now and then, patients should not delay the treatment.