3 May 2020

How COVID-19 is affecting prostate cancer patients

Prostate cancer isn’t on lockdown during COVID-19 – but tech can help
Prostate Cancer | Where The Money Goes

Movember CEO Michelle Terry looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting prostate cancer patients and what we’re doing to help.
"This year an estimated 1.3million men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer around the world, according to the Global Burden of Disease study. In a typical year around 380,000 will die from the disease. But, of course, this year has been anything but typical. As the coronavirus has spread across the globe, oncologists and patients have had to take drastic steps to try to deal with the fallout from the crisis.

“The impact of the global lockdown could have a profound effect on prostate cancer outcomes in a number of ways.”

The impact of the global lockdown could have a profound effect on prostate cancer outcomes in a number of ways.

Cancer patients are already more vulnerable because of a compromised immune system caused by both their disease and the side effects of treatments, such as chemotherapy. A World Health Organization study has shown that cancer patients who develop COVID-19 have a five-fold risk of dying, compared with people without cancer. In response, doctors have had to delay some surgeries and pare back other treatments in order to reduce patients’ hospital time and cut the risk of infection.

In addition, some countries are reporting a fall in cancer diagnoses due to people either ignoring potential symptoms or being reluctant to seek medical help for fear of catching the virus.

As scientific teams around the world work flat out to find a vaccine and antibody tests for the coronavirus, much biomedical research into new tests and treatments for all forms of cancer has come to a standstill.

Many clinical trials have had to be deferred and valuable research will have been lost, which will in turn slow the speed of progress and impact patient outcomes in years to come.

But in the midst of the despair, there are some potentially positive developments. One outcome of the pandemic is that it has made digital care tools such as telehealth and telemedicine indispensable because they can dramatically reduce the number of patients who need come into the doctor’s office or hospital outpatient clinic in person.

Virtual consultations allow doctors to write prescriptions, order scans, discuss blood test results and answer any questions in same way they would in a face-to-face appointment. For some patients, it’s more convenient to have a consultation from their own home – so it’s a trend that may continue after lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Now operating across eight countries, and with open access websites launched in Australia, Ireland and the UK, Movember’s innovative True North program gives men living with prostate cancer access to online self-management information and tools.

In the UK, funded by Movember and delivered in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK, the Supported Self-Management program has been trialled with over 2,500 men. The program allows men access to an online service which lets them view their PSA results as soon as they are uploaded by the lab. They can also complete assessments, view patient information and contact their clinical team without the need to visit the hospital for routine appointments unless there is an issue. The system not only lowers patient costs but it also allows the men who use it to have control over their own care.

We believe quality of life is just as important as a longer life. If men feel fully involved in the decision-making process and engaged in managing their own cancer treatment, it leads to more positive outcomes and a happier, longer life."