UTHSC’s Chair of Radiation Oncology David Schwartz, MD, is leading a national study for the American Society for Radiation Oncology looking at how COVID-19 has affected radiation oncology treatment levels across the country.
Dr. Schwartz and his co-author, Daniel Wakefield, MD, chief resident in the Department of Radiation Oncology at UTHSC, found that radiation oncology visits were down nationally during the height of the pandemic for several reasons, including that some clinics were temporarily closed, primary care visits were fewer resulting in fewer cancer diagnoses, and patients chose to stay home and postpone treatment because of social distancing concerns.
The study, based on a survey conducted from April 16-30 with 222 physicians responding, showed radiation oncology appointments down by one third in 85 percent of the oncology practices surveyed, even though they did not close their doors this spring.
The study, recently published nationally in The Cancer Letter, concludes that as cities begin to reopen, demand for radiation oncology services will pick up, and a backlog of cases is anticipated. The information highlights the difficult but necessary challenge of encouraging patients to continue their cancer treatment even in time of global health crisis.