Cancer Healthcare protocols by Oncologists during Pandemic

Cancer Healthcare protocols by Oncologists during Pandemic

Our health is in our own hands, a healthy lifestyle is important. In a recent interaction with the Editor of Siliconindia, Dr K S Gopinath, Surgical Oncologist, HCG Cancer Hospital Bengaluru, shared his insights on how cancer care across the globe has modified during the peak of the pandemic and how clinical trials play vital role in terms of healthcare advancements.

COVID and Cancer

The COVID-19 pandemic has come as a threatening challenge for the patients, oncologists, and the health care systems across the globe. One of the observations which were noticed in the preceding 18 months was that cancer care across the globe was modified during the peak of the pandemic. As cancer specialists, although we did not directly treat COVID cases in hospitals, we strongly followed the COVID related guidelines or precautions. The surgical oncology community has come forward with more questions, which are answered, especially when related to issues concerning prioritizing cancer treatment during COVID.

Like the NCD protocols adopted for the treatment of diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and cancer, similar quality care has been given to cancer patients having COVID. Hospitals have adhered to standard protocols to treat both COVID and cancer. One must realise that patients with cancer are highly prone for infection in general because of their underlying cancer and their immunocompromised state. Therefore they represent a high-risk group during the COVID pandemic.

The Indian Association of Surgical Oncology (IASO) has developed guidelines and published articles in the Indian Journal of Surgical Oncology (IJSO) on the need to prioritize cancer treatment during the COVID pandemic. A special issue in the IJSO, where I am the Chairman and Editor, has been dedicated to COVID and cancer care. Thus, coming from a non-COVID specialty, the management of cancer during the pandemic has been reflected across the country and abroad. Patients assisted by psycho-oncologists in counselling them have also resulted in obtaining highest standards of cancer care across the globe.

During COVID, cancer patients have been treated all cancer institutes and academic centres including private hospitals. Carrying a bold and positive thinking is very important for doctors alike. For each one of us, patient care is the one which matters in the end irrespective of COVID status. We have strived to provide quality care with evidence-based methods to all.

Technological Revolution in Healthcare Industry

In the cancer dictum, Biology is the king, and cancer is closely related to biology. Development of technology is like prince and princess, akin to transition from chest X-rays to positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and from open and laparoscopic to robotic surgery.

Technologies have improved over time. Right from the staging of disease to treatment, doctors have imbibed combined modality treatment involving radiotherapy and chemotherapy before or after surgery to reduce the extent of surgery, thus allowing preservation of a part of the organ involved with cancer. This is known as called organ conserving or organ preserving surgery. Multimodal treatment along with organ-preserving and functional surgery is useful, ensuring that the outcome is excellent. Technology has made a big change, allowing technicians, nurses, and allied health care workers to also get trained to utilize the technology better. This transfer of technology is what I believe in handling machines with expertise.

Development of technology and transfer of technology are both important so that patients are benefitted from getting quality care treatment. Technology has also helped develop and promote health amongst people in every sphere of life.

Treatment of cancer starts right from our hands

Our health is in our own hands, so I would like to state a healthy lifestyle is important. So, to prevent cancer or detect it right from its early stages, it is necessary to get oneself diagnosed as early as possible. Using the available healthcare, early diagnosis of cancer and other non-communicable diseases can be performed. The government has recently come up with the scheme of Ayushman Bharat, which provides low-cost, high-quality treatment to all deserving patients.

The government should strive to establish multidisciplinary cancer treatment teams in every district, providing adequate facilities at Taluk and primary care centres for cancer detection and prevention. Further metropolitan cities and medical colleges should be made nodal centres for research and other things.

The Indian Council of Medical Research started with National Council Registry Protocol (NCRP). Also, the informatics centre-statistical data is headed by Dr. Prashant Mathur that takes care of population-based cancer registry and hospital-based registry protocols. The ICMR has taken the lead in education and allied health sciences to evaluate the early signs of cancer and access public information at large, thereby making people aware about receipting early care.

Need for Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are the need of the hour in the country considering the large, vulnerable population and burden of disease. Clinical trials must benefit the institution to develop innovative, cost-effective treatment policies. Government and DCCI must adopt good practice guidelines (GCP) before commencement the Clinical trials. The 400 plus medical colleges and 150 DNB institutions must have a separate department dedicated towards conducting clinical trials for benefitting patients at large. 

As cancer is ubiquitous regardless of age, gender or nationality, it is important to bring in innovation, thereby contributing to the society and achieving something concrete at the end of the day. Every human being should develop newer technologies to detect cancer and engage in research to contribute to the betterment of the society.

Further, the risk of in-hospital transmission of COVID-19 infection can be reduced by effective implementation of infection control policies, especially concerning screening and triaging patients and staff for symptoms of Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI), as well as the disciplined use and disposal of the Personal protective equipment (PPE) and the other biomedical wastes.

The treating oncologists and institutions must ideally develop their multidisciplinary protocols for prioritizing cancer treatments after considering all the ground realities amidst the pandemic.

Finally, adequate measures need to be taken to look into the psychosocial and emotional well-being of all cancer patients and the health care workers alike during the pandemic.