A recent study, discussed by authors in JAMA Oncology, has suggested that several measures being implemented at the National Cancer Center/Cancer Hospital (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China) could help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for patients with cancer who are seeking treatment.
These measures include temperature tests performed at the entrance of the hospital, the outpatient clinic and the wards, and the contact and travel histories of all individuals being recorded. Online scheduling and on-site registration have been introduced to reduce the volume of visitors to the hospital. In addition, online consultation channels for cancer patients are open daily.
The hospital has introduced personal protection measures for admitted patients including masks and disinfectant, and any COVID-19 symptoms are routinely recorded. Mandatory routine blood tests and high-resolution CT scans of the lungs are performed.
Finally, specific anticancer drugs that are usually administered through infusion have been changed to oral administration if available, including etoposide and vinorelbine. For drugs given via infusion such as chemotherapy, intervals are prolonged depending on the patients’ condition.
The Cancer Hospital implemented these control measures from 12 February 2020 – 3 March 2020 and received a total of 2944 patients, including 2795 outpatients and 149 inpatients. The patients were screened and a total of 27 showed inflammatory changes or pneumonia in the lungs, eight of whom were suspected of having COVID-19.
The patients were tested for COVID-19 and fortunately all these patients came back as negative for the virus. During this time period, there was not a member of staff or patient that was diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection, suggesting that the prevention strategies implemented should be recommended to reduce the number of cancer patients being diagnosed with COVID-19.