POSTED: June 12, 2020

Prostatepedia April + May: How COVID-19 is changing prostate cancer treatment.

Discussions on health care issues are dominated by Covid-19: this tends to happen during a pandemic that has caused so many deaths. What has been the impact of this pandemic on the treatment of patients with prostate cancer?

In this issue, we interview physicians in academia and private practice in the United States and Great Britain.

Several common themes emerge from these interviews. For many patients, treatment of prostate cancer has been delayed or otherwise altered. This is theresult of resources, such as hospital facilities, being commandeered for treatment of the virus. It is also true that many medical procedures have been shown to aerosolize the virus and increase the odds  of virus transmission. There have also been limitations placed on patient-physician face-to-face contact. This has been necessary to protect both physicians and patients from exposure to the virus: the typical waiting room is a situation favoring spread of highly infectious agents like Covid-19.

There seems little question that the delay in prostate cancer treatment will have a negative impact on cancer control, especially for those patients with aggressive cancer. The same issues are impacting the treatment of patients with other cancers as well as patients with other diseases, like cardiovascular disease.

The impact of this pandemic is not all bad. As each interviewee notes, telemedicine has become widely used as a substitute for the traditional office visit. This is a favorable change, because many medical issues can be more efficiently dealt with via telemedicine. For the patient, it eliminates the cost and time spent going to and from the doctor’s office. For the physician, it results in costs associated with office personnel and facilities. It seems very likely that telemedicine will remain more widely used after this pandemic has subsided.

The key question we need to ask is whether we can take the lessons learned during this pandemic to do a better job the next time? In terms of science, medicine and public health, the answer is clearly that we will come out of this with knowledge that can allow us to do better. The real issue is whether we will have the political will to do so.

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