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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 37-43

Impact of COVID-19 lockdown on patients with cancer in North Bihar, India: A phone-based survey

1 Department of Community Medicine, Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, India
2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, India
3 Department of Preventive Oncology, Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, India

Correspondence Address:
Chanda Rai
C/O Dr Bikash Kumar, Daudpur Kothi, Laxmi Chowk, Muzaffarpur - 842 003, Bihar
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/crst.crst_349_20

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Background: In India, the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) outbreak led to an extensive lockdown, leaving the other time-sensitive medical conditions, such as cancer unaddressed. Patients with cancer are extremely vulnerable to infections owing to their already immunocompromised status and the need for prolonged treatment. Objectives: We aimed to study the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the utilization of health-care services by patients with cancer in the Muzaffarpur district of North Bihar, India. Materials and Methods: This descriptive, cross-sectional study was conducted at a preventive oncology clinic in the Muzaffarpur district of North Bihar in India. All consecutive patients registered in the population-based cancer registry of Muzaffarpur were telephonically contacted between April 15, 2020, and May 7, 2020, during the first phase of the nationwide lockdown. The patients were asked questions related to their disease, treatment status, and impact of the lockdown on their treatment. Detailed responses were recorded and analyzed. Results: The study comprised 210 patients of which majority were women (62.9%) and aged more than 40 years (77.1%). A total of 162 (77%) patients were found to be affected by the lockdown, of which 137 (65.4%) missed their scheduled visits, 1 (0.5%) missed surgery, 1 (0.5%) missed chemotherapy, and 24 (11.4%) could not get the prescribed drugs. Most patients who missed their scheduled appointments were aged more than 60 years, women, inhabitants of rural areas, with multiple comorbidities, or belonged to the lower middle-income economic strata. About 70% of the patients faced transportation issues, and 55% experienced financial problems during the lockdown. Conclusion: The lockdown led to difficulties in accessing cancer care in almost 80% of the patients with cancer. This suggests the need for strategic planning of health-care services for patients with cancer during the current pandemic, by means of telemedicine consultation, home-based palliative care services, and ensuring the availibility of essential cancer drugs.

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