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Coronavirus Warning: Surgery Delays Could Kill Some Cancer Patients

Several hospitals worldwide have been delaying surgeries in order to attend to COVID-19 cases and as a precautionary measure to increase hospital and critical care capacity. But, this can be dangerous to some cancer patients.

According to Gethin Williams, a consultant colorectal surgeon at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, almost all surgeries at their hospital has been affected due to the coronavirus pandemic, BBC mentioned.

Ever since the Welsh government announced that it was taking ‘urgent measures’ to increase the hospital and critical care capacity, the staff had been taking difficult situations every day as operating theaters have been getting converted into intensive care units.

The health minister had also asked all non-urgent surgeries to be held in a bid to help the health service gear up to tackle the deadly virus. Although he had said, at the time, that there wouldn’t be any issues with the cancer treatment, bowel cancer operations had since stopped at the Royal Gwent Hospital. The consultant colorectal surgeon opined that this could give rise to serious consequences and can be highly risky for several patients.

“Bowel cancer in some people can grow, bleed, obstruct and can spread. Some people’s cancers are fast-growing, some people’s cancers are slow-growing, we’ve had to take really tough decisions over the past week or so,” BBC quoted Dr. Williams.  “The rate at which Covid-19 is going through the Royal Gwent, there’ll be no colorectal surgery for the foreseeable future. Without treatment, some cancers could obstruct, others could metastasize, although in many cases these cancers would have been there for a good few months anyway, but in some cases, the prognosis would be worse,” he added.

At NYU Langone Medical Center, cancer patients have been directed to separate elevators in order to reduce their chances of developing the coronavirus infection.  Also, cancer-fighting medications taken at home are being substituted for IVF therapies administered at hospitals and clinics.

Moreover, due to the fall in blood donations, surgeons are also switching to regimens that need fewer blood transfusions.

“I’m used to seeing patients who are afraid. But nowadays, they are particularly terrified. Their fear is amplified beyond the general populace,” the Washington Post Mark Lewis, an oncologist at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah.

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