Management of Early Breast Cancer at an Australian Cancer Centre During the Early Phase of COVID-19 Pandemic

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Elissa J Zhang
Kirsty Stuart
Rina Hui
Rhiannon Mellor
Wei Wang
Verity Ahern
Farid Meybodi
James French
Elisabeth Elder
Meagan Brennan


Early breast cancer, Cancer management, COVID-19, Breast cancer, Coronavirus, Surgery, Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy


Background: This study aimed to prospectively record changes to treatment for early breast cancer patients during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.  The purpose was to assess the impact on breast cancer outcomes and to determine the need for any mitigative actions. 

Methods: The study was conducted in the breast cancer unit of a tertiary referral hospital. Patients with early (non-metastatic) breast malignancy discussed in multidisciplinary team meetings between March and June 2020 were included. Patients were newly diagnosed, post-operative or post-neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Standard treatment was defined by Westmead Breast Cancer Institute protocols and any variations related to the pandemic were recorded.

Results: In the study, 145 patients were included (median age 59 years). Pandemic-related changes to management were noted in 13 of 145 (9.0%) patients. Four patients experienced a delay to cancer treatments, four were not offered reconstructive/ symmetrisation surgical procedures, three had altered radiotherapy protocols and two patients were not offered enrolment to a clinical trial. These impacts affected the groups presenting with new cancers (n=7/86, 8.1%), post-operative cases (n=4/25, 16.0%) and post-neoadjuvant chemotherapy cases presenting for surgical planning (n=2/34, 5.9%). 

Conclusion: Most patients (91.0%) received standard treatment during the first wave of the pandemic. The minor variations from institutional protocols observed in this study are unlikely to affect local control or survival in this patient cohort, but close follow-up is required. Quality of life may have been affected for four patients who had downgraded or delayed reconstructive procedures.


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