The impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the management of head and neck cancer must be addressed. Immediate measures to reduce transmission rates and protect patients and providers take priority and necessitate some delays in care, particularly for patients with mild symptoms or less aggressive cancers. However, strict guidelines have yet to be developed, and many unintentional delays in care are to be expected based on the magnitude of the looming public health crisis. The medical complexity of head and neck cancer management may lead to prolonged delays that worsen treatment outcomes. Therefore, those caring for patients with head and neck cancer must take action to reduce these negative impacts as the country rallies to overcome the challenges posed by this pandemic.
Subject(s)Communicable Disease Control/organization & administration , Coronavirus Infections/prevention & control , Disease Transmission, Infectious/prevention & control , Head and Neck Neoplasms/therapy , Pandemics/prevention & control , Patient Safety , Pneumonia, Viral/prevention & control , COVID-19 , Disease Management , Disease Outbreaks/statistics & numerical data , Female , Head and Neck Neoplasms/epidemiology , Head and Neck Neoplasms/immunology , Humans , Immunocompromised Host , Male , Outcome Assessment, Health Care , Pandemics/statistics & numerical data , Risk Assessment , United States , Vulnerable Populations/statistics & numerical data
BACKGROUND AND METHODS: There is an added level of complexity in the management of head and neck cancer patients with underlying immunosuppressive disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Head and neck oncologists are tasked with balancing the dual risks of cancer progression in the setting of impaired tumor immunity and increased susceptibility to life-threatening complications from exposure to viral infection for patients and providers. Through two cases of immunocompromised patients with newly diagnosed head and neck malignancies, we aim to provide guidance to clinicians struggling with how to best counsel and manage this unique subset of patients under these difficult circumstances. RESULTS: After careful consideration of the options, we took different approaches in the care of these two patients. CONCLUSIONS: Ultimately, there is no uniform set of rules to apply to this heterogeneous group of immunocompromised patients. We provide some general principles to help guide patient management during the current pandemic.
Subject(s)Conservative Treatment/methods , Coronavirus Infections/epidemiology , Head and Neck Neoplasms/therapy , Immunocompromised Host , Pandemics/prevention & control , Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology , Time-to-Treatment/organization & administration , Adult , COVID-19 , Clinical Decision-Making , Communicable Disease Control/methods , Disease Management , Female , Follow-Up Studies , Head and Neck Neoplasms/pathology , Humans , Interdisciplinary Communication , Laryngeal Neoplasms/pathology , Laryngeal Neoplasms/surgery , Male , Middle Aged , Mouth Neoplasms/pathology , Mouth Neoplasms/surgery , Patient Safety , Risk Assessment , Sampling Studies , Time Factors , United States , Vocal Cords/pathology , Vocal Cords/surgery
The 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has presented the world and physicians with a unique public health challenge. In light of its high transmissibility and large burden on the health care system, many hospitals and practices have opted to cancel elective surgeries in order to mobilize resources, ration personal protective equipment and guard patients from the virus. Head and neck cancer physicians are particularly affected by these changes given their scope of practice, complex patient population, and interventional focus. In this viewpoint, we discuss some of the many challenges faced by head and neck surgeons in this climate. Additionally, we outline the utility of telemedicine as a potential strategy for allowing physicians to maintain an effective continuum of care.