Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the 2WW breast referrals to a district general hospital (2021)

Type of publication:
Conference abstract

*Tokode O.; *Rastall S.; *Wilson M.

European Journal of Surgical Oncology; May 2021; vol. 47 (no. 5)

Introduction: Recommendations were issued to the hospital Trusts to configure service delivery to balance cancer care with the safety of the patient and the hospital staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. The public felt the service restrictions might lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients. We compared the management of 2ww breast referrals in our centre between May to July 2019 and 2020. Method(s): We triaged all referrals to face-face consultation or initial telephone consultation during the pandemic. Patients with suspicious symptoms were offered face-face consultation after the telephone triage. Result(s): Overall, breast patients' referrals fell by 28.3% during the pandemic. 10.2% reduction was noted in May (95% CI 6.73 – 13.59, p<0.001) but a non-significant increase was recorded in June and July. Waiting time reduced by 8.43 days (95% CI -8.88 to -7.98, p< 0.0001). Breast cancer suspicion increased across all age groups in 2020 (+10.4% to + 16.2%). Breast cancer diagnosis rose by 2.0% in 2020 (95% CI 0.19 – 3.92, p=0.030). No cancer was diagnosed among under 29 years. 29.1% of the 522 patients triaged to telephone consultation were discharged, and 70.9% needed face-to-face follow-up. One patient discharged after telephone consultation was later diagnosed with breast cancer. Conclusion(s): COVID-19 pandemic did not lead to a prolonged waiting time or reduced breast cancer diagnosis, but there was an overall reduction in referrals to our breast service.

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