Dr. Scagliotti on Preventive Measures to Reduce COVID-19 Risk in Oncology

Giorgio Vittorio Scagliotti, MD, PhD, discusses the precautionary measures implemented in clinical practice to protect patients with cancer from COVID-19.

Giorgio Vittorio Scagliotti, MD, PhD, chief of the Medical Oncology Division at the S. Luigi Hospital in Orbassano; the head of the Department of Oncology, and a professor of oncology at the University of Torino, discusses the precautionary measures implemented in clinical practice to protect patients with cancer from COVID-19.

In response to the pandemic, several institutions have reshaped approaches to treatment within the field of oncology. At Scagliotti’s institution, a series of rules were put into place regarding social distancing and not permitting caregivers in the waiting room. There has also been a shift to telemedicine for patients who require regular follow-up visits as well as therapeutic discussions, says Scagliotti.

Despite the pandemic, patients with newly diagnosed cancer still require care for their disease, adds Scagliotti. To this end, his ward has established a second-level triage in which patients are checked for symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever. Patients are asked to wear surgical masks while in clinic and to stay home unless they need to undergo blood tests or chest x-rays, says Scagliotti. If patients are negative for the virus, they are moved into the consultation or chemotherapy administration rooms.

Despite being "in the middle of a storm," Scagliotti and his team are still delivering as many as 70 chemotherapy treatments daily, which is down from 200 daily treatments, and consulting between 40 to 50 patients. In order to maintain a COVID-19—free environment, strict rules must be implemented, stresses Scagliotti. All physicians and surgeons should be wearing surgical masks and gloves and social distancing measures should be practiced.

Scagliotti explains that his team encounters at least 1 patient every day who could possibly be positive for the virus. To this end, an oncology ward is being developed with the intention to treat patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, while patients who test negative are brought to the hematology or internal medicine departments to receive treatment, concludes Scagliotti.

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