Covid 19, Cancer patients and Advanced Treatment modalities

Covid 19, Cancer patients and Advanced Treatment modalities

As covid 19 affects the more elderly and beloved patients with chronic illnesses health seeking behavior has been restricted to a great extent by the patients themselves. Some adopt telemedicine services to engage with their doctors either via audio or video calling. Prescriptions are sent electronically and the drugs are delivered to the home. But some disease conditions cannot be neglected and their treatment cannot be postponed. One such disease segment is cancers.

Some cancers by nature cause immune compromise. Moreover due to chemotherapy and radiotherapy some patients need to take extra precautions for a period of time to avoid unnecessary exposure to infections. Therefore Covid 19 pose a significant risk to the patients with cancers.

Safety first

As we understood initially the diagnosis and treatment of cancer should start at an early stage to achieve a favorable outcome. Therefore despite the Covid 19 threat the cancer care services need to continue their services like the clinics and treatment while following strict precautionary measures to safeguard staff and patients from Covid 19 infection. It is a responsibility of any health care institution that maintain their good standards.

One such step is to avoid the mixing of cancer patients with the general crowd who attend the OPD and other clinics. This can be achieved by having separate entrances, separate clinic chambers as well as establishing a separate wing for cancer care. Daily footfall can be limited by means of making online or call over facilities for make the appointments, strict appointment time with limited token per day, adopting telemedicine services, delivery of drugs or picking up drugs from a separate outlet and outreach services. If you are unable to attend to your cancer clinic for any matter, it’s best that you reach out to them and share the reports in whatever mode for opining rather than neglecting or postponing your matter.

On the other hand all the walk-in clients can be evaluated for temperature and offered a questionnaire to check the presence of Covid 19 symptoms and inquired about the potential exposure to Covid 19 patients. Such positive clients are prevented from entering the facility. At the entrance hand washing facilities are offered and sanitizer sprays can be offered too.  These facilities should be spacious to accommodate social distancing. The general guideline of wearing a mask is essential to be practice mainly to avoid spreading whatever germs from the respiratory tract.

It is also advisable for the cancer patients who are undergoing treatment to boost their immunity by means of adhering to a healthy and a nutritious diet. Good nutrition is always good for recovery from diseases as well as to prevent infections. A good diet should have adequate proteins with eggs, milk and milk products vitamins with fruits vegetables. At the same time patients are advised to have adequate sleep, exercise on top of the good diet. Staying in the sun between 11.00a.m.- 03.00p.m. for 15-30 minutes will give you adequate vitamins D which is necessary for good immunity.

The novel treatment modalities

The cancer treatment has advanced in the past decade and the most advanced treatment options are offered from both private and public sectors. Apart from the chemotherapy which takes bit of a toll on the patients, focused radiotherapy has come to the limelight recently. State of the art External Beam Radiotherapy with linear accelerator machine and Tomotherapy are now available in Sri Lanka for affordable prices. These machines are capable of providing radiotherapy to breast, prostate, rectal and many other cancers. Brachy therapy is also another treatment option using radioactive compounds, namely iridium 192 for treatment of cervical cancers. Thyroid cancers are treated with radioactive iodine (I 131) after surgery. Chemo and hormonal therapies are available for cancers like breast, rectum, bladder and prostate etc.


Tomotherapy is an advanced form of radiation treatment used to kill cancer cells. It is a state-of-the-art technique using sophisticated equipment that enables extremely precise targeting of tumors with an integrated, highly developed type of 3-dimensional image-guided radiation therapy. As mentioned before it is effectively used against prostate cancers, brain tumors, and pancreatic tumors, breast cancers, liver cancers and anal and rectal cancers.

Because of the degree of precision it offers in targeting and regulation of the amount of radiation delivered, Tomotherapy delivers accurate radiation therapy for even the smallest of tumors. The sophisticated technology allow the radiation beam to be delivered around the patient, while the patient’s couch can also be mobilized back and forth. This allow the delivery of radiation to areas of the human body that cannot be easily reached with conventional radiation therapy.

Inbuilt 3D imaging allows the Doctors to make slightest adjustment on the target and deliver the radiation precisely to the desired organ. This is also important because a patient’s anatomy can change from day-to-day. Image-guided radiation therapy helps doctors make immediate adjustments to allow for tumour movement or shrinkage, weight loss and other changes.

Another benefit to patients is reduced treatment times. Tomotherapy is as painless as having a CT scan or an X-ray, and takes only a few minutes a day. It is also capable of treating multiple tumors, in multiple areas of the body, during the same treatment session.

By making delivery more accurate, and the regulation of the volume of radiation more precise, the adverse effects of radiation therapy can be minimized, making treatment easier on the patient.

Advances in cancer treatment has become a reality and all you need to do is to reach out for the appropriate care center without delay. Health care facilities take utmost effort to keep the environment safe to all cancer patients. In the meantime, it is your responsibility to adhere to the proper health measures to keep you and others safe during this pandemic situation, while attending to the much needed treatment.