Cancer treatment delays during the pandemic

The Staff at National Health Service in UK are doing an admirable job during the pandemic. In the particular, the frontline staff (“patient-facing”) are showing great courage in face of great difficulties and are primarily driven by altruism.

But the pressures of pandemic means many routine scans and hospital clinic appointments have been cancelled particularly during the first wave. There is a great worry about delayed diagnosis of cancer and delayed treatment of cancer.

A paper in BMJ reports that cancer patients survival can be significantly compromised.

But, as with everything else in life, things are not always what they look like at first impression. Even things that are logical and common sense at first glance do not turn out to be simple and clear.

Firstly, delays and cancellations of scans paradoxically could have psychologically benefited some cancer patients . This might seem counterintuitive or even an outrageous statement.

But there are some cancers which are being over diagnosed. A Cancer diagnosis does not always mean a death sentence. Some cancers do not cause problems for a long time or never in the life time of a person. These cancers do not need to be diagnosed promptly. Not being diagnosed with these cancers prevents the psychological burden of a cancer diagnosis. This “over diagnosis” would be expectedly less during pandemic.

Secondly, treatment delays could be caused by a cancer that is advanced and the need for time consuming additional investigations and procedures. Sometimes delays are caused by patients needing to see many medical specialists for the treatment. So it’s the aggressive cancer and the complex patient care that would cause the delay and is responsible for poor outcome rather than the delay by itself.

Read the BMJ article and make your views known.

Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis
BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4087 (Published 04 November 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4087

Overdiagnosis in Cancer
H. Gilbert Welch, William C. Black
JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 102, Issue 9, 5 May 2010, Pages 605–613, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djq099

Disparities in head and neck cancer: assessing delay in treatment initiation
Urjeet A Patel et al. Laryngoscope. 2012 Aug.

Khorana AA, Tullio K, Elson P, Pennell NA, Grobmyer SR, Kalady MF, et al. (2019) . Time to initial cancer treatment in the United States and association with survival over time: An observational study. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0215108. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215108

Can Hair dyes cause cancer?

Yes, there is a possible increased risk of some types of skin and breast cancer as well as ovarian cancer.

Permanent hair dyes are widely used. A recent study published in BMJ suggests that use of Hair dyes might be risky.

This large study from United States enrolled 117 200 women in the Nurses’ Health Study. The women reported on personal use of permanent hair dyes, and were followed for 36 years. So overall it is a high quality observational study.

Read the full paper and Caveats at the BMJ website.

References

Personal use of permanent hair dyes and cancer risk and mortality in US women: prospective cohort study

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2942 (Published 02 September 2020)

Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2942

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Are Routine blood tests essential during follow up of low grade Lymphoma?

Bloods tests have the potential to pick up various abnormalities including cancer related abnormalities during follow up of cancers.

But , many patients would be surprised to know that there is ongoing debate about usefulness of routine blood tests atleast in some cancers !

In a recent study, Australian investigators assessed the role of routine blood tests during monitoring of patients with low grade lymphoma.

They found that routine blood tests rarely found or detected disease progression in patients who did not have any symptoms.

References

Routine Blood Tests in Asymptomatic Patients With Indolent Lymphoma Have Limited Ability to Detect Clinically Significant Disease Progression. DOI: 10.1200/JOP.19.00771 JCO Oncology Practice – published online before print June 25, 2020. PMID: 32584701

Effectiveness of Routine Blood Testing in Detection of Disease During Active Surveillance for Indolent Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. By Matthew Stenger. Posted: 7/16/2020 1:40:00 PM . Last Updated: 7/29/2020 1:59:00 PM

Utility of Routine Surveillance Laboratory Testing in Detecting Relapse in Patients With Classic Hodgkin Lymphoma in First Remission: Results From a Large Single-Institution Study. DOI: 10.1200/JOP.19.00733 JCO Oncology Practice – published online before print May 5, 2020. PMID: 32369413

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.