Vol 26, No 1 (2021)
Research paper
Published online: 2021-01-22

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COVID-RO study: the radiation oncology practice at times of COVID-19 outbreak — international survey

Sarit Appel1, Yaacov Richard Lawrence1, Zvi Symon1, Orit Kaidar-Person1
Rep Pract Oncol Radiother 2021;26(1):20-28.

Abstract

Background: Radiation therapy (RT), an essential treatment of cancer, involves multiple hospital visits. We hypothesized that radiation departments would adjust their work patterns and RT protocols in response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Materials and methods: An electronic survey was sent during April 2020 to an international sample of radiation oncologists. The survey explored various aspects of departmental preparedness, and changes to their institutional RT protocols.

Results: A total of 68 radiation oncologists from 13 countries answered the survey. Healthcare systems were at least moderately affected in 76%. Most institutes appeared well prepared for the outbreak: regarding the availability of personal protective equipment, tests, and telemedicine/videoconference facilities. Screening for SARS-CoV-2 was applied in 59% of responders. Modification of RT protocols were minor in 66%, significant in 19% and no changes made in 15%. The extent to which protocols were modified correlated with overall healthcare disruption (p = 0.028). Normal fractionation was recommended to continue in 83% and 85% of head & neck, and cervical cancers vs. 64% of lung cancers (p = 0.001). In case the pandemic worsens, there was strong agreement to prioritize RT for aggressive cancers (80%), delay RT for slow-growing tumors (78%) and change to evidance-based hypofractionations protocols (79.4%). The option of delayed/omitted adjuvant RT  (not site specific) was selected in 47%. 

Conclusion: This international survey concludes that, by making significant organizational adjustments and minor protocol modifications, RT may be safely continued during this pandemic. If the crisis worsens, there was strong agreement to continue the treatment of aggressive tumors and utilize evidence-based hypofractionated protocols.

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Reports of Practical Oncology and Radiotherapy