The COVID 19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on many medically compromised individuals including cancer patients. This ranges from delayed or suspended cancer screening and/or diagnostic services, suboptimal cancer treatment owing to the prioritization of COVID 19 patient care, and discontinuation of various clinical trials, jeopardizing longer-term therapy development.
The COVID-19 pandemic also poses a barrier to equal and evidence-based management of cancer in older adults. Although the data on the impact of COVID-19 on older patients with cancer is deficient, they are likely to be at a higher risk of infection, and have poor prognosis, which could be worsened due to the disruption of cancer care during lockdowns imposed as preventive measures to curb the COVID 19 spread.
A recent paper by the International Society of Geriatric Oncology (SIOG), describing the global perspectives of cancer care for older patients during COVID-19, reported similar challenges in different countries when providing care for this age group. Hence, the way forward suggested was to study the effect of COVID-19 on this population, as well as its effect on age-related disparities, to strengthen patient-physician communication, and to consider the patients’ treatment preferences. In addition, SIOG has recently proposed recommendations on the implications of the pandemic on several aspects of cancer care in this age group including geriatric assessment, surgery, radiotherapy, systemic treatment, palliative care and research. Another important aspect in this matter is the training of our future colleagues who are trained in geriatric oncology during this pandemic. Obviously, the pandemic poses an extra strain on training programs, as supervision moments might be cancelled, residents might engage in other tasks than usual, and conferences or classes are cancelled.