Aim: To determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the overall practice of the histopathological and cytological laboratory at the University Hospital Centre Rijeka, and on the diagnosis of the most common cancers. Methods: The numbers of histopathological and cytological reports, newly diagnosed cancers of breast, lung, colon, endometrium, and prostate, molecular tests for EGFR mutations and HPV were extracted. Two periods, from March 1 to September 30 in 2019 and 2020 were analysed and compared, as the periods before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results: The total number of reports was statistically significantly lower during
the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, compared to the same period in 2019 (p<0.000), histopathology by 24%, non-gynecological cytology by 20%, gynecological cytology by 13%, and Pap tests by 11%. During COVID-19 compared to the same period in 2019 the number of newly diagnosed malignant tumors was significantly reduced for colon cancers (–25%, p <0.0001). The decrease in the new cases of breast (–3%) and prostate cancer (–4%) was less pronounced while the increase was recorded for lung (+ 2%) and endometrial cancer (+ 53%). The number of HPV tests dropped significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, by 40% (p <0.0001). Conclusions: This study confirmed the expected significant reduction in workload during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, from 11% to 40%, although the number of patients with newly diagnosed cancers, except for colon, did not fall significantly. It would be important to form a joint national registry that would collect diagnostic and also therapeutic procedures, especially for oncology patients, in order to gain a more objective insight into the problems of the health system during pandemics. These data can be used to consider measures
and strategies for the most adequate care, not only for COVID-19 but also for all other patients.
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