Almost 5,000 surgeons and anaesthetists from around the world, including Chinese University's medical school, worked together as part of the COVIDSurg Collaborative to analyze data from the 15 most common solid cancer types in 20,000 patients across 466 hospitals in 61 countries.
The study was published in The Lancet Oncology.
The researchers compared cancellations and delays for cancer surgery during lockdowns to those during times with light restrictions only.
During full lockdowns, 15 percent of patients did not receive their planned operation after a median of 5.3 months from diagnosis, all with a Covid-19 related reason for not doing the operation.
Delays were observed for those who have had surgery under lockdowns.
One in four (23.8 percent) of cancer patients had to wait for more than 12 weeks from diagnosis to surgery during full lockdown, double the proportion during moderate lockdown (10.4 percent) or light restriction (9.1 percent) periods.
Delays in operation could lead to cancer progression and potentially more cancer deaths.
Researchers from CU Medicine highlighted that despite the reduction in diagnostic services and availability of operating theaters during the peak of Covid outbreak in Hong Kong, cancer patient treatments were prioritized.
There were some delays in cancer diagnosis due to patients' fear of attending hospitals during the pandemic, however, majority of patients received cancer treatments with minimal delay. But although Hong Kong did not experienced full lockdown, some of the planned operations had to be delayed.
Dr Kaori Futaba, Assistant Professor of the Department of Surgery at CU Medicine, said: “We have been implementing more stringent infectious control measures and operation arrangement during Covid time. To balance the capacity of urgent and planned surgeries has been one of the biggest medical challenges during the pandemic.”
The Collaboratives calls upon authorities around the world to provide elective surgical pathways that will allow surgery to continue safely. The team believes that the study can help inform governments when making decisions about whether to prolong or reduce restrictions.
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