by Tommaso Addona, MD, FACS
President, Long Island Plastic Surgical Group, PC
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we move through our day to day lives. For those who are generally healthy, this means wearing a mask and following safety protocols. However, for those living with a breast cancer diagnosis, the pandemic has not only presented distinct challenges but also generated additional fears. From screenings and diagnosis to treatments and follow-up care, the breast cancer community is but one of many learning to adapt to a new kind of normal.
At the height of stay at home orders both here in New York and nationwide, patients questioned whether it was safe to attend medical appointments and were often faced with a delay or change in their treatment schedules. In fact according to a study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment medical journal, nearly half (44%) of the 609 breast cancer survivors involved in an online questionnaire experienced delays in care during the early weeks of the pandemic. The survey, which was released by researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago, was conducted between the dates of April 2 and April 27, 2020. While the most commonly reported delay was for routine follow-up visits, 2 out of every 3 patients within that 44% reported a postponement in breast reconstruction surgery. This may be due to the fact that early on in the pandemic, most revision and reconstruction surgeries were considered “elective” or “non-essential.” While this may sound off-putting, it is important to keep in mind that during this time hospitals and healthcare workers were inundated with pandemic cases. In an effort to keep the general public safe, they, therefore, had to limit the number of patients coming in and out of hospitals and operating rooms. Longer, more involved surgeries like autologous tissue reconstructions were almost entirely held, and patients on neoadjuvant chemoRX were considered safe to delay. With that said, the few reconstruction procedures that were performed were done so with implant-based modalities.
As the COVID curve began to trend-downward in early May, elective surgeries in New York resumed and Ambulatory Surgery Units (ASUs) here on Long Island reopened. Although a rigorous pandemic strategy was put in place to safely screen and reschedule patient procedures, the methodical way operating rooms are traditionally cleaned did not change. Operating rooms have been, and continue to be, a highly safe and sterile environment.
At Long Island Plastic Surgical Group we continue to take every precaution possible to ensure that patients feel safe entering our facilities for necessary visits and procedures. In addition to a change in scheduling, we are also conducting COVID-19 pre-screenings via telephone and taking patient temperatures upon entrance into the building. Telehealth appointments remain available for both consults and follow-ups.
There is no denying that the pandemic is far from behind us. However looking ahead, we want patients to remember that now more than ever, it is essential to regard your health with vigilance. Preventative care and early detection ensure we have a window of time within which to act. Unfortunately when we delay, that window becomes smaller. Now that most appointments have entirely resumed, please continue to follow through with all checkups, screenings, and visits, either in-person or virtually. Take care of yourself as best you can, and we promise to continue doing everything in our power to take care of you as well!