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Effect of COVID-19 on Breast Cancer Treatment Examined

MONDAY, May 3, 2021 -- More patients with estrogen receptor (ER)-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative breast cancer have been treated with neoadjuvant endocrine therapy (NET) due to COVID-19, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons, held virtually from April 29 to May 2.

Lee G. Wilke, M.D., from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, and colleagues report on the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on breast cancer using data for a COVID-19-specific registry, developed within the American Society of Breast Surgeons Mastery program. A total of 172 surgeons entered data on 2,476 unique COVID-19 registry and 2,303 Mastery registry patients between March 1 and Oct. 28, 2020.

The researchers found that for patients with ER-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative disease, NET was used as a "usual" approach in 6.5 percent of patients in the COVID-19 registry, which was comparable to the 7.8 percent in the Mastery. In an additional 36 percent of patients, NET was used due to COVID-19. Patients were more likely to receive NET due to COVID-19 with increasing age and if they lived in the North or Southeast in a multinomial regression with surgery first/usual practice as the reference (odds ratios, 1.1, 2.2, and 1.6, respectively). Overall, 10.8 percent of patients had a change in surgical approach reported due to COVID-19, with the primary reasons being planned return for mastectomy or reconstruction (27 and 15 percent, respectively).

"COVID-related breast cancer treatment changes may have provided the context for testing new protocols, with some likely to persist beyond the pandemic," Wilke said in a statement.

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