Pandemic exacerbated inequities in cancer treatment

Black and Hispanic cancer patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were more likely than white patients to experience lengthy delays in treatment or discontinue it altogether, reports Elana Gotkine at HealthDay.
Black and Hispanic people had worse cancer outcomes before the pandemic, and the effects of COVID-related treatment delays are likely to ripple for years to come, write the authors of the study in JAMA Network Open.
The pandemic forced physicians and clinic to balance the need for rapid cancer treatment with the risk of transmitting COVID, as well as the risk posed by complications from the coronavirus among their patients.
To analyze inequities, the researchers from Columbia University and elsewhere used data from more than 4,700 patients in the American Society for Clinical Oncology’s COVID-19 Registry, which covers April 2020 through July 2022. The authors did not include people who died.
Black patients were most likely to experience a delay of more than two weeks or discontinuation of cancer treatment in the wake of a COVID diagnosis.
Black, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander patients also experienced longer delays in restarting their cancer medications than white people. For example, Black patients waited 19% longer than white patients.
Geography also mattered: cancer patients who lived in ZIP codes with factors such as low household income or lack of college education were at added risk to delay or stop treatment after a COVID-19 diagnosis.