« All Blogs Mar 31, 2020 (Cleveland)
Pandemic is Changing Cancer Treatment Decisions

By Megan Coriell, RHIA, CTR, Quality Data Coordinator

It is no surprise that the coronavirus is impacting our daily lives in more ways than one. For many, it means canceled vacations, working remotely, unexpected homeschooling of children, “social distancing” and a sudden nationwide shortage of toilet paper! However, for those of us in the cancer registry, we are beginning to see the impact the coronavirus is having on cancer patients and how they are treated.

Cancer patients and physicians are forced to make tough decisions when it comes to their cancer treatments. They must consider if the risk of coming into the hospital for treatment outweighs the risk of being exposed to a potentially deadly virus when their immune system may already be compromised. Physicians are looking for alternative ways to treat patients in the safest manner possible. This may include changing chemo regimens from an IV infusion to an oral chemotherapy pill halfway. For example, a patient started on FOLFOX might be switched to oral Xeloda halfway through their treatments if the physician deems this is in the best interest of the patient. Cancer directed surgeries are also being delayed for early-stage cancers as hospitals are considering many of them to be “elective procedures”. Additionally, routine follow-up appointments are being conducted via telemedicine at some facilities. As registrars, we need to be aware that these appointments may be documented under “phone communications” within the EMR and may not be transcribed as a routine office visit. 

Registrars must be aware of how this may impact the work they do in the cancer registry. Because routine screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies are being postponed, the caseload is expected to decrease significantly during this time. Unplanned delays and potential modifications in treatment will require the registrar to look at the bigger picture to tell the patient’s story. 

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About the Author

Megan Coriell, RHIA, CTR