Gynecologic cancer specialist stresses the importance of continued care during COVID-19 pandemic

Western Connecticut Health Network
With patient safety precautions in place at Nuvance Health, women should not postpone gynecologic cancer screenings or treatment due to COVID-19 concerns

Summary:

  • Women who need screening or treatment for gynecologic conditions or concerns should continue to seek the care they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Nuvance Health oncologists are still offering comprehensive gynecologic cancer treatment.
  • Nuvance Health is taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in all of its facilities and protect patients who may be at higher risk of COVID-19 infection or complications.

If you or your loved one needs treatment or screening for gynecologic cancer, you may be wondering if it’s safe to receive care and whether you should visit a hospital or physician’s office during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why you shouldn’t delay care

It’s important not to delay routine screenings or care for gynecologic conditions or concerns. Learn about the safety precautions at your hospital or doctor’s office so you are well informed and prepared for your next visit. Nuvance Health has implemented a variety of patient safety measures at all facilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • Screening protocols: Patients and staff are screened for risk factors of COVID-19.
  • Check-in/out processes: To limit the number of people in Nuvance Health facilities and ensure proper social distancing, patients may be asked to wait in their vehicles until their appointment begins, or in waiting areas with fewer chairs set more than 6 feet apart. Pre-registration and follow-up appointments will be done by phone.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): Face masks are worn by patients, approved visitors, and staff. Clinical staff may also wear additional PPE including face shields, head coverings, gloves, or surgical gowns.
  • Infection prevention: Stringent cleaning and disinfecting of facilities take place throughout the day with a deep clean daily.

“For anyone who is hesitant, please know that our offices and hospitals have protocols in place to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19. For example, staff in our gynecologic oncology offices started wearing masks early on and continue to wear them,” said Dr. Linus Chuang, chair of OB/GYN at Nuvance Health’s Danbury Hospital and Norwalk Hospital.

Linus Chuang, MD
Dr. Linus Chuang, Surgical Gynecologic Oncologist
Chair of OB/GYN at Nuvance Health’s Danbury Hospital and Norwalk Hospital

Precautions for individuals at high risk of complications from COVID-19

People who are receiving treatment for gynecologic cancers may be at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection and related complications due to a weakened immune system. Other factors, such as being older than 65 and health conditions such as diabetes, can further increase COVID-19 risks. In addition to the safety precautions at all Nuvance Health hospitals and medical practices, cancer care safeguards include:

  • Multidisciplinary oncology teams follow the latest care guidelines from national cancer associations including the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • When possible, oncologists see patients via telemedicine to reduce the number of in-person visits for those who don’t require a physical exam.
  • Fewer infusion chemotherapy or radiation oncology appointments are scheduled at a time to limit the number of patients in the cancer centers.
  • Exam rooms and treatment areas are sanitized after each patient, and the cancer centers are cleaned at least hourly throughout the day, with a deep clean daily.
  • Patients who meet testing criteria need to have a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their procedure or surgery. There are designated operating rooms and recovery units for patients who don’t have COVID-19.

“Our patients are mainly elderly, and they’ve been very careful because they know they’re in a high-risk group,” said Dr. Chuang who is a surgical gynecologic oncologist. “However, we have found that most patients are willing to come in because they understand the hospital is following national and state guidelines to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19.”

Screenings for gynecologic cancer

It’s important to continue routine screenings for gynecologic cancer — such as Pap smears, annual exams, and HPV testing — if your doctor recommends them. Routine screenings may help to detect gynecologic cancer at an earlier, more curable stage.

Treatment for gynecologic cancer

Cancer patients undergoing treatment are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, which is why Nuvance Health continues to take precautions for them.             

“We continued to care for our patients, even during the initial surge of the pandemic,” said Dr. Chuang. “We weighed the benefits and risks of surgery. Patients with advanced-stage cancer still had surgery if that was the best treatment plan for them. If patients were doing well on neoadjuvant chemotherapy, we continued that course of treatment prior to surgery.”

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy, which is given before surgery, is a proven and accepted standard of care for patients with certain types of gynecologic cancer. Patients at high risk for COVID-19 who had surgery scheduled during the height of the pandemic — such as elderly patients with endometrial or ovarian cancer — received extended neoadjuvant chemotherapy and were able to postpone surgery until the number of COVID-19 cases began to decline.

“Our patients on this regimen did well, and showed no progression of cancer,” said Dr. Chuang.

The bottom line: If you or a loved one needs treatment or screening for a gynecologic condition, please don’t delay care. At Nuvance Health, protocols are in place to help reduce the risk of possible spread of COVID-19.

About Dr. Linus Chuang

Dr. Linus Chuang is a surgical gynecologic oncologist, chair of OB/GYN at Nuvance Health’s Danbury Hospital and Norwalk Hospital, and the Fred and Irmi Bering Endowed Chair in Minimally Invasive Surgery at Danbury Hospital. He is also a global gynecologic oncology expert and the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) International Affairs Committee Chair.

To learn more about gynecologic cancer care at Nuvance Health, visit our websites:
Connecticut Gynecologic Cancer Care | New York Gynecologic Cancer Care

CONTACT
Amy Forni, Manager, Public Relations
(203) 739 7478 | Amy.Forni@nuvancehealth.org