Delay cancer treatment or risk COVID-19? Doctors and patients weigh the risks

Cara Heitmann, who was diagnosed with breast cancer just as the pandemic was becoming a huge concern for Canada, said she felt like “a number, not a person,” when her mastectomy was delayed. Photo: CTV News

(Alexandra Mae Jones and Sandie Rinaldo/ CTV National News) — An international study into the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients has found an alarming trend: the death rate is more than twice that of other people who contract the virus, leaving doctors searching for answers on how to continue care.

The study, which had early data described in the Lancet in late May, looked at people with both diseases in the U.S., Spain and Canada. It concluded that cancer patients were much more likely to die from COVID-19 than people without cancer who got the virus.

As elective surgeries and treatments resume, doctors and patients are wrestling with the risks of delaying treatment further, versus the risk of exposing cancer patients to COVID-19 in a hospital setting.

Amid this confusion, a new web-based app developed by researchers at the University of Michigan is hoping to help clinicians weigh those risks.

Called the OncCovid app, it uses mathematical modelling to balance numerous factors, such as the probability of becoming infected within a hospital setting and the patient’s demographics. (…)

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