POSTED: March 26, 2020

Dr. Susan Slovin: COVID-19, Prostate Cancer + NYC - March 26, 2020

Dr. Susan Slovin is a medical oncologist specializing in prostate cancer immunology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Prostatepedia spoke with her recently about what she’s seeing in New York during the  coronavirus-19 pandemic this week.

What's your view on what's going on in New York? Do you have any new thoughts or advice this week for prostate cancer patients? 

Dr. Susan Slovin: We've all been apprised by both state and city government that the peak has yet to come in New York City, let alone New York State. We anticipate that we will have more patients admitted. The staff, nurses, doctors, and all the ancillary support staff have risen to the occasion and are really working hard to keep people at home, triage them, and take care of them in hospital. We're all busy at different times of our day and during the week.

As a physician, I'm impressed by the willingness of our patients to accept teleconferences right now. We are having visits by telephone, and people appreciate it. Many of our patients are prostate-specific antigen (PSA) centric. If they don't have the opportunity to talk about their PSAs, their anxiety levels go up, even in the face of coronavirus.

I tried to discourage somebody I'd seen several years ago from coming in today, but he insisted despite our recommendation not to do so. We even offered to do a teleconference with him.

This is a perfect time for us to explore how telemedicine is going to work for our patients. I am pleased that our patients are eager to have teleconferences with us. They express their appreciation that we are taking the time to talk to them, whether it's about coronavirus, what the implications are should they need care for coronavirus exposure, and also for their general medical and oncologic wellbeing.

Patients who need chemotherapy are coming in. People who are on ongoing clinical trials have to come in. But the permissions of the pharmaceutical sponsor are given leeway so that patients are taken care of without exposing them to undue risk. Our patients have rallied. I'm very surprised about it. I haven't heard anybody complain about either getting treatment or not getting treatment. They understand. It's a testament to the adaptability of many cancer patients, if not all cancer patients.

 Do you think that one of the silver linings coming out of this is that we are exploring, out of necessity, the feasibility of telemedicine for our routine office visits?

Dr. Susan Slovin: This is the wave of the future, whether we like it or not. None of us feel that telemedicine can replace on-hands evaluation of the patient. There's no question that physical medicine is really what works for a patient. But there are patients who have minimal disease and don't require anything other than a visit every few months who just need to be evaluated face to face with laboratory values, and that's more than sufficient. Telemedicine does not replace the academic acumen that is needed in order to evaluate a patient. It's trying to forestall unnecessary visits. This may help our healthcare system to a degree, especially since patients want to defer travel into big cities.

Do you have any other thoughts or final advice this week for patients and their families?

Dr. Susan Slovin: I'm extremely impressed at the flexibility and the courage that a lot of our patients are exhibiting. A lot of our older patients have been through many epidemic problems before, including the Vietnam War and even World War II in some cases. They're troopers and they're survivors. They're an inspiration to everybody. People should take a moment to keep in mind that being hysterical is not the way that you should perform in this kind of situation. Clarity of mind is the best thing possible. So that's what we're doing.

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