In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with oncologist Dr. Shaina Rozell, we discuss cancer management challenges and disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are the biggest challenges that oncologists are tasked with in the wake of COVID-19?
Dr. Shaina Rozell:
“I think with the pandemic, it has resulted in a lot of delays in seeking healthcare. Many patients are afraid that one, they’re gonna catch COVID in the hospital, so they’re not seeking care. Two, because of the shortage of physicians and ancillary staff, we’re not able to get screening tests done in a timely fashion, and I think that’s problematic.
We’ve had mammograms, breast MRIs, and CTs postponed for months. Because patients can’t get those tests done, they either have to go to another hospital, which might not take their insurance and again, there’s a major delay in care. And it’s very troubling that there’s a delay in detecting and treating cancer.”
Do you think cancer disparities have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dr. Shaina Rozell:
“I think so. I am running into a lot of patients who are being diagnosed at later stages. At tumor board, when we discuss patients, so many times you hear a case where, ‘oh, this patient was supposed to have their mammogram, they were supposed to have a colonoscopy, but due to COVID, the operating room was shut down so we could not do a colonoscopy for a while,’ which was for months. Right?
Or ‘due to COVID, the patient could not have a mammogram for three months, and now she presents with this larger breast mass,’ which now means she’s at a higher stage. And so, now we’re talking about maybe chemotherapy, maybe life-long chemotherapy with a stage 4 cancer. I think the pandemic has really caused many problems, and I don’t think we have seen the [full] magnitude of it yet.”
Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.