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Br J Radiol ; 94(1128): 20210614, 2021 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1496311


OBJECTIVES: Radiotherapy is a key cancer treatment modality but is poorly understood by doctors. We sought to evaluate radiation oncology (RO) teaching in medical schools within the United Kingdom (UK) and Republic of Ireland (RoI), as well as any impacts on RO teaching delivery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. METHODS: A bespoke online survey instrument was developed, piloted and distributed to oncology teaching leads at all UK and RoI medical schools. Questions were designed to capture information on the structure, format, content and faculty for RO teaching, as well as both the actual and the predicted short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19. RESULTS: Responses were received from 29/41 (71%) UK and 5/6 (83%) RoI medical schools. Pre-clinical and clinical oncology teaching was delivered over a median of 2 weeks (IQR 1-6), although only 9 (27%) of 34 responding medical schools had a standalone RO module. RO teaching was most commonly delivered in clinics or wards (n = 26 and 25 respectively). Few medical schools provided teaching on the biological basis for radiotherapy (n = 11) or the RO career pathway (n = 8), and few provide teaching delivered by non-medical RO multidisciplinary team members. There was evidence of short- and long-term disruption to RO teaching from COVID-19. CONCLUSIONS: RO teaching in the UK and RoI is limited with minimal coverage of relevant theoretical principles and little exposure to radiotherapy departments and their non-medical team members. The COVID-19 pandemic risks exacerbating trainee doctors' already constrained exposure to radiotherapy. ADVANCES IN KNOWLEDGE: This study provides the first analysis of radiotherapy-related teaching in the UK and RoI, and the first to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on radiationoncology teaching.

COVID-19/prevention & control , Education, Medical, Undergraduate/methods , Radiation Oncology/education , Schools, Medical , Surveys and Questionnaires/statistics & numerical data , Cross-Sectional Studies , Curriculum , Humans , Ireland , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2 , United Kingdom
Lancet Oncol ; 22(3): 309-320, 2021 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1164661


BACKGROUND: The indirect impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer outcomes is of increasing concern. However, the extent to which key treatment modalities have been affected is unclear. We aimed to assess the impact of the pandemic on radiotherapy activity in England. METHODS: In this population-based study, data relating to all radiotherapy delivered for cancer in the English NHS, between Feb 4, 2019, and June 28, 2020, were extracted from the National Radiotherapy Dataset. Changes in mean weekly radiotherapy courses, attendances (reflecting fractions), and fractionation patterns following the start of the UK lockdown were compared with corresponding months in 2019 overall, for specific diagnoses, and across age groups. The significance of changes in radiotherapy activity during lockdown was examined using interrupted time-series (ITS) analysis. FINDINGS: In 2020, mean weekly radiotherapy courses fell by 19·9% in April, 6·2% in May, and 11·6% in June compared with corresponding months in 2019. A relatively greater fall was observed for attendances (29·1% in April, 31·4% in May, and 31·5% in June). These changes were significant on ITS analysis (p<0·0001). A greater reduction in treatment courses between 2019 and 2020 was seen for patients aged 70 years or older compared with those aged younger than 70 years (34·4% vs 7·3% in April). By diagnosis, the largest reduction from 2019 to 2020 in treatment courses was for prostate cancer (77·0% in April) and non-melanoma skin cancer (72·4% in April). Conversely, radiotherapy courses in April, 2020, compared with April, 2019, increased by 41·2% in oesophageal cancer, 64·2% in bladder cancer, and 36·3% in rectal cancer. Increased use of ultra-hypofractionated (26 Gy in five fractions) breast radiotherapy as a percentage of all courses (0·2% in April, 2019, to 60·6% in April, 2020; ITS p<0·0001) contributed to the substantial reduction in attendances. INTERPRETATION: Radiotherapy activity fell significantly, but use of hypofractionated regimens rapidly increased in the English NHS during the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. An increase in treatments for some cancers suggests that radiotherapy compensated for reduced surgical activity. These data will assist health-care providers in understanding the indirect consequences of the pandemic and the role of radiotherapy services in minimising these consequences. FUNDING: None.

COVID-19/epidemiology , Neoplasms/radiotherapy , SARS-CoV-2 , Adult , Aged , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , United Kingdom/epidemiology
Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol ; 6(3): 199-208, 2021 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1065697


BACKGROUND: There are concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on cancer care but there is little direct evidence to quantify any effect. This study aims to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the detection and management of colorectal cancer in England. METHODS: Data were extracted from four population-based datasets spanning NHS England (the National Cancer Cancer Waiting Time Monitoring, Monthly Diagnostic, Secondary Uses Service Admitted Patient Care and the National Radiotherapy datasets) for all referrals, colonoscopies, surgical procedures, and courses of rectal radiotherapy from Jan 1, 2019, to Oct 31, 2020, related to colorectal cancer in England. Differences in patterns of care were investigated between 2019 and 2020. Percentage reductions in monthly numbers and proportions were calculated. FINDINGS: As compared to the monthly average in 2019, in April, 2020, there was a 63% (95% CI 53-71) reduction (from 36 274 to 13 440) in the monthly number of 2-week referrals for suspected cancer and a 92% (95% CI 89-95) reduction in the number of colonoscopies (from 46 441 to 3484). Numbers had just recovered by October, 2020. This resulted in a 22% (95% CI 8-34) relative reduction in the number of cases referred for treatment (from a monthly average of 2781 in 2019 to 2158 referrals in April, 2020). By October, 2020, the monthly rate had returned to 2019 levels but did not exceed it, suggesting that, from April to October, 2020, over 3500 fewer people had been diagnosed and treated for colorectal cancer in England than would have been expected. There was also a 31% (95% CI 19-42) relative reduction in the numbers receiving surgery in April, 2020, and a lower proportion of laparoscopic and a greater proportion of stoma-forming procedures, relative to the monthly average in 2019. By October, 2020, laparoscopic surgery and stoma rates were similar to 2019 levels. For rectal cancer, there was a 44% (95% CI 17-76) relative increase in the use of neoadjuvant radiotherapy in April, 2020, relative to the monthly average in 2019, due to greater use of short-course regimens. Although in June, 2020, there was a drop in the use of short-course regimens, rates remained above 2019 levels until October, 2020. INTERPRETATION: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a sustained reduction in the number of people referred, diagnosed, and treated for colorectal cancer. By October, 2020, achievement of care pathway targets had returned to 2019 levels, albeit with smaller volumes of patients and with modifications to usual practice. As pressure grows in the NHS due to the second wave of COVID-19, urgent action is needed to address the growing burden of undetected and untreated colorectal cancer in England. FUNDING: Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council, Public Health England, Health Data Research UK, NHS Digital, and the National Institute for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.

COVID-19 , Colonoscopy/statistics & numerical data , Colorectal Neoplasms , Colorectal Surgery/statistics & numerical data , Early Detection of Cancer , Patient Care Management , Radiotherapy/statistics & numerical data , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , Colorectal Neoplasms/diagnosis , Colorectal Neoplasms/epidemiology , Colorectal Neoplasms/therapy , Delivery of Health Care/trends , Early Detection of Cancer/methods , Early Detection of Cancer/statistics & numerical data , England/epidemiology , Female , Health Services Needs and Demand , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Patient Care Management/methods , Patient Care Management/organization & administration , Patient Care Management/standards , Referral and Consultation/statistics & numerical data , SARS-CoV-2 , State Medicine