COVID-19 and cancer care
We are living in virtually unprecedented times—‘virtually’ because pandemics have happened before, notably the ‘Spanish’ flu of 1918. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been magnified by its enormous impact on the way people live their lives. We are used to being cushioned from the effects of disease as a natural catastrophe—at least in Western societies—but the current situation has changed this.
My specialty has been profoundly affected by the pandemic. In nearly 30 years as an oncology nurse, I have seen systemic anticancer treatments become more sophisticated. In the past 5 years, novel immunotherapy agents have offered patients with previously extremely poor prognoses renewed hope of extended, good quality lives. In the UK, patients have been encouraged to present to their GPs early with symptoms and there is a 28-day cancer target and investment in diagnostic capability. The pandemic has meant a huge reduction in patients presenting to GPs, leading to fewer urgent referrals (Philpotts, 2020).
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