Getting in-person cancer care may come with added risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. But doctors have been thinking of new forms of treatment and taking precautions to ensure that their patients are safe from the virus.
Dr. Robert Donegan, Chief of the Division of Medical Oncology at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) said that treatment centers are thoroughly sanitized and have limited visitor capacity.
“Everybody both patient and staff alike are wearing masks,” he said. “There is a real emphasis on proper spacing and social distancing in the waiting areas and in treatment areas.”
Shortly after Maryland went under lockdown last March, hospitals were unable to do cancer screening or elective surgery because of the pandemic. In recent months, they’ve been resuming some of their treatments and relying more on telemedicine.
Donegan says that telemedicine will continue to play a larger role when the pandemic is over.
“In March and April, I'd say that 80 or 90% of my visits were being done by telemedicine,” Donegan said. “Telemedicine, I think, is going to become an important component of long term care and follow up.”
But Donegan added that in-person cancer care and research will and must continue.
“It’s critical that we not lose the advances that we've made in the last many decades,” he said.