Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Breast Cancer Management in Portugal: A Cross-Sectional Survey-Based Study of Medical Oncologists

Diogo Alpuim Costa, José Guilherme Gonçalves Nobre, João Paulo Fernandes, Marta Vaz Batista, Ana Simas, Carolina Sales, Helena Gouveia, Leonor Abreu Ribeiro, Andreia Coelho, Margarida Brito, Mariana Inácio, André Cruz, Mónica Mariano, Joana Savva-Bordalo, Ricardo Fernandes, André Oliveira, Andreia Chaves, Mário Fontes-Sousa, Mafalda Sampaio-Alves, Diogo Martins-BrancoNoémia Afonso

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Abstract

Introduction: Cancer care providers have faced many challenges in delivering safe care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. This cross-sectional survey-based study investigated the impact of the pandemic on clinical practices of Portuguese medical oncologists caring for patients with breast cancer. Methods: An anonymous online survey comprising 42 questions gathered information regarding COVID-19 testing, treatment in (neo)adjuvant and metastatic settings, and other aspects of breast cancer management. Practices before and during the pandemic were compared, and potential differences in outcomes according to respondents’ regions, case volumes, and practice type were explored. Results: Of 129 respondents, 108 worked in the public health system, giving a representative national picture of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on breast cancer management. Seventy-one percent of respondents reported a reduction in visits for new cases of breast cancer, and there was a shift towards increased use of telemedicine. Clinical decision-making was largely unaffected in the most aggressive indications (i.e., triple-negative, HER2-positive, visceral crisis). The use of neoadjuvant therapy increased when access to surgery was difficult, whereas dose-dense regimens decreased, and cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 inhibitor treatment decreased for less aggressive disease and increased for more aggressive disease. The use of oral formulations and metronomic chemotherapy regimens increased, and clinical trial participation decreased. Some differences by respondents’ region and case volume were noted. Conclusion: Medical oncologists in Portugal implemented many changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, most of which were logical and reasonable responses to the current healthcare emergency; however, the true impact on patient outcomes remains unknown.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOncology and Therapy
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Breast cancer
  • Clinical practice
  • COVID-19
  • Patient management

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