The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has just released guidelines on caring for prostate cancer patients in light of the risk of COVID-19 infection to patients as well as new constraints on many healthcare systems. These guidelines are based on the peer-reviewed studies we have to date as well as input from experts from many nationally-recognized cancer centers.
This is very good news. Your provider has likely been looking for expert guidance on how to best care for you during these very challenging times. You may have been concerned about the potential for delays in your care. The first sentence in these guidelines reads:
“The benefit of routine localized prostate cancer care should not be overestimated. In most instances, minimal harm is expected with delays in care or treatment of 3–6 months, especially when weighed against the risk of mortality of COVID-19.“
In other words, a relatively brief delay – until we have even more information about how to protect prostate cancer patients from infection, and until our health systems have more resources to treat COVID-19 patients and others – is not thought to make prostate cancer worse. Remember, in most cases prostate cancer is slow-growing.
The guidelines give more specific guidance on how providers can safely minimize patients’ contact with the healthcare system, therefore reducing their risk of COVID-19 infection. For example:
- Visits should be done by telehealth, if possible
- Patients with very low, low, and favorable intermediate risk prostate cancer can avoid treatment until the risk of COVID-19 infection is much lower
- A short radiation therapy schedule should be considered (5-7 treatments)
- Make sure you have an adequate supply of oral medications on hand
That said, every man’s prostate cancer is different, and your doctor will consider your individual case in light of these guidelines. Talk to your doctor – by phone or video chat – about any changes in your care.
PCF will continue to monitor these developments, so check back for updates.