Oncologists worry about their patients. It’s in their DNA — at least in the good ones. COVID-19 puts an added measure of worry about people with cancer. Just how much additional risk of prolonged illness or death is carried by people with cancer who get COVID-19? From China comes an attempt to evaluate this. Physicians and epidemiologists got together in late January and looked at the first 2000 patients to get this virus culled from admission diagnoses in over 500 articles. Only a small percentage of these patients either have cancer and are undergoing treatment or had cancer in the recent past. The differences as to how they handled the pandemic were striking. See the figure here from that article. Click here to read the entire paper. As you can see the morbidity and mortality among cancer patients was much higher than that of the general population. No attempt was made to correct for age, which is important since most patients with cancer are older, but the paper was really just a snapshot rather than a definitive study. Still it is useful because it shows how morbid this disase can be when is strikes a cancer patients.
All of the major cancer centers in the US are grappling with trying to prevent their patients from getting COVID-19 but the prevention strategies are likely to be imperfect. Stay tuned, as this is a rapidly evolving field.