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Infectious Diseases

02 September 2020

Gynaecological cancers not a risk for severe Covid-19

A new study could potentially alter the theory that cancer patients face worse odds when infected with Covid-19.

  • Women with gynaecological cancer may fear that they are more susceptible to Covid-19
  • A new study, however, revealed that these women were not more affected than those who only had Covid-19
  • The study could change the theory that cancer patients face worse odds when infected with Covid-19

Despite rampant fears that cancer patients are at higher risk of having severe cases of Covid-19, a new study suggests gynaecologic cancers do not boost the chances of hospitalisation or death.

"Our study should be reassuring for women with gynaecologic cancers who are worried that having cancer increases their risk of becoming seriously ill if they go to the hospital because of Covid-19," said lead investigator Olivia Lara, an oncology fellow at NYU Langone's Perlmutter Cancer Center.

For the study, Lara's team reviewed the medical records of 121 women, aged 51 to 63, being treated simultaneously for gynaecologic cancers and Covid-19 in New York City between March and April.

The results, published online in July in the journal Cancer, revealed that these women had similar hospitalisation rates and death as those who only had Covid-19.

Only a mild form of the disease

More than half of the study patients required hospitalisation, and among those hospitalised one-quarter died, amounting to a 14% death rate.

The death rate among this sample is comparable to the 21% death rate identified in another study, which included 5 700 hospitalised Covid-19 patients in the city, the study authors noted.

The study could potentially alter the theory that cancer patients face worse odds when infected with Covid-19.

A full 75% of the women with gynaecological cancer experienced only a mild form of the disease, according to the report.

The women's risk of dying from Covid-19 did not increase even if they had late-stage cancer, cancer surgery or high-dose chemotherapy, the study authors said in a New York University news release.

Sample size too small

Still, one risk factor related to cancer treatment seemed to increase the odds of death.

Women receiving immunotherapy – treatment that uses a person's own immune system to fight cancer – were three times more likely to die than women who received standard cancer treatments such as radiation, surgery or chemotherapy.

But only eight out of the 121 participants included in the study were treated with immunotherapy, prompting the study authors to stress that the sample was too small to make any conclusions based on this finding.

The results do underscore the importance of receiving cancer screenings and treatments, despite Covid-19 fears.

"The basic rules of cancer care have not changed during the pandemic," study senior investigator Dr Bhavana Pothuri said in the news release. "Early detection, screening and care lead to more people surviving what remains a leading cause of death among American women."

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