A quality assurance review of penile cancer diagnostic delays and stage at presentation during the COVID-19 pandemic
Keywords:COVID19, Diagnostic Delays, Penile Cancer, Virtual Care, eHealth
INTRODUCTION: Penile carcinomas represent a rare malignancy associated with significant psychosocial impacts that deter afflicted individuals from seeking medical attention, thus, worsening prognosis. Following the dramatic shift in healthcare delivery to virtual platforms, it is suspected that prevalent psychosocial impacts have been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in several late-stage presentations and engendering poorer outcomes.
METHODS: A retrospective chart review of surgically managed cases of penile cancer was conducted from January 2020 to June 2022 to identify patients that may have been unduly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Included cases were analyzed in quantifying diagnostic and treatment delays, along with patient outcomes. Relevant epidemiological and pathological markers were also examined.
RESULTS: Ten patients met the inclusion criteria. Average time delay from first complaint of a penile lesion to surgical management was 75 days, with 60% of patients experiencing a time delay of two months or more. The average delay from first complaint to diagnosis was 62 days in 2020 and 18 days in 2021. Advanced-stage disease was present in six (60%) individuals at presentation, while four (40%) patients perished during the study period.
CONCLUSIONS: In cases of concern for penile malignancy, virtual care cannot replace the necessity of physical exams in preventing diagnostic and treatment delays. The present study further highlights the necessity of initial physical examination of penile abnormalities in preventing fatal outcomes for those afflicted. Such consideration warrants urgent examination of referred males with genital abnormalities to prevent further exacerbation of delays.
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