The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on thyroid cancer patients​


Year:

Session type:

Theme:

Nikita Chander, Kate Farnell, Neil Tolley

Abstract

Background

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a profound negative impact on NHS services, including those relating to cancer care. With the prevalence of thyroid cancer increasing, this has detrimentally influenced the care provided to a significant number of patients. Although REDCap database studies are useful, they nonetheless have a tendency to omit data evaluating the impact on quality of life seen from the perspective of the patient.

Method

Thyroid cancer patients were invited by the Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust (BTCT) to complete an online questionnaire. Data relating to patient demographics, the impact of the pandemic on quality of life and the accessibility of support services was analysed.

Results

200 completed questionnaires were received, with over 80% of patients aged between 31-60 years (F:M 9:1). For patients diagnosed during lockdown, 57% were informed of their diagnosis by telephone, and 43% were told that there was likely to be a delay to their treatment. For patients requiring surgery, only 43% underwent an operation within 4 weeks of their decision to treat. For those requiring radioiodine treatment, 66% of patients waited longer than 8 weeks before treatment. 50% of patients considered that the pandemic had made their diagnosis more challenging to deal with.  Only 60% of respondents were provided with details of a cancer nurse specialist (CNS), with as little as 33% given details of the BTCT.

Conclusion

This study indicates that a significant proportion of thyroid cancer patients experienced an unnecessary delay in their treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was largely due to uncertainties regarding the safety of continuing with treatment at this time, which has since improved with the implementation of local and national guidance.

Furthermore, this study revealed that support for thyroid cancer patients during the pandemic was inadequate. A significant amount of work and focus is still required by the NHS to rectify this in the face of future waves of the pandemic.

Impact statement

Provision of care and support for thyroid cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic was inadequate; a significant amount of work is required by the NHS to rectify this in the face of future waves of the pandemic.