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Universal Screening of Patients with Cancer for COVID-19: Results from an Observational, Retrospective Cohort Study in Kerala, IndiaSource of Funding None.
Introduction There is high risk of contracting coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) among patients with cancer with risk of mortality and morbidity being high. Limited data is available on the outcomes of universal screening of cancer patients with asymptomatic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection from lower-middle-income countries (LMICs).
Objectives Our goal was to determine the prevalence of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection in patients with cancer attending the medical oncology department of a tertiary care hospital in Kerala and protect both patients and health care workers before proceeding with the systemic anticancer treatment.
Materials and Methods This was a retrospective cohort study of screening patients receiving systemic anticancer therapy for COVID-19 among hospitalized patients from August 1, 2020, and both outpatients and hospitalized patients from September 1 to November 15, 2020. After clinical triaging, patients were subjected to universal screening with rapid antigen tests and/or reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
Results A total of 1,722 SARS-CoV-2 tests (321 RT-PCR and 1,401 antigen tests) were performed among 1,496 asymptomatic patients before their scheduled chemotherapy/immunotherapy. Eight hundred forty-eight patients were screened more than twice. The patient cohort's median age was 59 years (range 01–92 years); 44.98% of patients were males, and 55.01% were females. 58.77% of patients were on adjuvant or neoadjuvant chemotherapy and 41.22% on chemotherapy for metastatic cancer. The most common malignancy was breast cancer (26.53%), followed by lung (8.35%) and gastrointestinal (16.4%) cancers. The prevalence of asymptomatic infections in our study was 0.86%. Only one patient who had undergone chemotherapy after a negative SARS-CoV-2 test developed confirmed COVID-19 during subsequent testing. From these index cases, none of the other patients, health care workers, or their caretakers contracted COVID-19.
Conclusion The prevalence of asymptomatic COVID-19 infections in our study was low (0.86%). With proper health education, clinical triaging, and screening of the high-risk group, it is possible to continue cancer treatment during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, even in LMICs.
The authors were fully responsible for all content, and editorial decisions were involved at all stages of manuscript development and they approved the final version.
Article published online:
18 April 2022
© 2022. Indian Society of Medical and Paediatric Oncology. This is an open access article published by Thieme under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonDerivative-NonCommercial License, permitting copying and reproduction so long as the original work is given appropriate credit. Contents may not be used for commercial purposes, or adapted, remixed, transformed or built upon. (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)
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