GENEVA, Feb. 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The delays of screening programmes, diagnostic imaging and biopsies, cuts in the numbers of physicians available to treat liver cancer patients, cancellations of surgery, and a drop in the number of patients entered on clinical trials, were just some of the issues reported in the poll.
The global Liver Cancer Outcomes in Covid-19 (CERO-19) Survey led by the Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer group from Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, CIBEREH, and the Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico of Milan included 76 high-volume cancer treatment centres which participated during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding that 87% of centres modified clinical practice for liver cancer patients. These centres spanned Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia.
Globally, around 800,000 people are diagnosed with liver cancer every year, accounting for 700,000 deaths.
The findings, presented today at the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL)'s Digital Liver Cancer Summit 2021, revealed a catalogue of interruptions to diagnosis and care. A total of 40.8% of centres said they had changed diagnostic procedures, 80.9% had altered screening programmes, and 39.5% had modified imaging studies.
Dr Sergio Muñoz-Martínez, lead study author, explains, "Our results reflect the impact of COVID-19 on the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of liver cancer patients around the world during the first wave of the pandemic. The modifications in liver cancer management due to this crisis raise the possibility of more patients being diagnosed with a later stage of cancer."
Previous studies have shown that poorer outcomes are associated with waiting or delaying treatment by two months.
Liver oncology nurses were shown to have taken on a more central role in providing telephone consultations with patients and in the digital transformation of services. "The COVID-19 crisis has promoted investment in liver oncology nurses to reflect their growing role, as well as in education and counselling of patients and their families," commented Dr Muñoz-Martínez.
"Future analyses will provide invaluable information around the clinical effectiveness of the strategies that have been implemented during this devastating health crisis."