MUMBAI: At a time when cancer treatment has slowed down across the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai has set a sterling example by successfully operating on 494
, many of them with conditions that made them susceptible to the novel coronavirus, such as advanced age, diabetes or hypertension.
The 494 surgeries for different cancers were performed during a five-week span starting from the date of the nationwide lockdown. The hospital’s effort — perhaps the largest such body of work in cancer surgery in the world during the pandemic — is being printed in the ‘Annals of Surgery’, one of the best known medical journals for surgery.
“No lives were lost. Only six of these patients tested positive for Covid but they didn’t need ICU care,’’ said Tata Memorial deputy director Dr Shailesh V Shrikhande, who heads cancer surgery. It wasn’t easy to go ahead with the surgeries given that the city is now referred to as the country’s Covid capital.
However, the hospital, which works under the central department of atomic energy, soldiered on because of the huge disease burden. “There are about a million new cancer cases in India, of whom around 0.2 million require surgery.
In the absence of surgery, most will experience disease progression with resultant mortality. Given that death due to Covid in India is 0.99 per million of population with case fatality rate of about 3%, cancer mortality in absence of definitive surgery will far exceed the mortality due to Covid,” said the authors in the research article. Moreover, most patients had pre-booked for surgery.
Many were from outside Mumbai and were already here when the lockdown was announced. “Only 36% of these patients were from Mumbai or the rest of
. The majority — almost 64% — were from outside,’’ said Dr Shrikhande, the lead author. “These were compelling enough (reasons) to continue major cancer surgeries,” said the paper.