Treatment Delay during Radiotherapy of Cancer Patients due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Document Type : Methodological papers


1 Department of Radiation Oncology, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre, New Delhi, India.

2 Department of Infectious Diseases, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre, New Delhi, India.


Purpose: To analyze the impact of treatment delay caused by COVID-19 infection on patients scheduled for radiotherapy treatment. Methods and Materials: In this descriptive study, we analyzed all patients who were COVID-19 positive during the scheduled radiotherapy course, those who had an infection while on neoadjuvant treatment period, or during surgery before the start of radiation. The study period was from June 2020 to May 2021. A treatment delay was defined as a delay in starting the radiation treatment, a gap during their scheduled radiation treatment, or treatment discontinuation. All patients who had a treatment delay were followed-up till November 2021. Results: The median follow-up time of the study was 13 months. Ninety-four patients were selected for the study who met the inclusion criteria. Seventy-seven patients had a mild COVID-19 infection, while 17 had a moderate to severe illness. Of the entire cohort, 83 patients had a treatment delay. The median treatment delay (MTD) in days was 18 (6 to 47). Amongst those who had a treatment delay, 66 patients were treated with curative intent, of which 51 patients are on follow-up – 34 patients are disease-free (MTD – 18.5, 10 to 43), seven had either a residual disease or locoregional recurrence (MTD – 22, 10 to 32), seven had distant metastasis (MTD – 18, 15 to 47), and three patients died (MTD – 20, 8 to 27). Of three patients who died, only one died of COVID-19-related causes. Conclusions: Even though the mortality due to COVID-19 infection among those who underwent radiotherapy was low, a treatment delay might have caused adverse treatment outcomes. Longer follow-up of these patients is required to further establish this. It will remain debatable whether it was worth delaying radiotherapy for mild to moderate COVID-19 infection for a significant time to cause a potential cancer treatment failure. 


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