Head and neck cancer radiotherapy amid COVID-19 pandemic: Report from Milan, Italy

Head Neck. 2020 Jul;42(7):1482-1490. doi: 10.1002/hed.26319. Epub 2020 Jun 18.


Background: Management of head and neck cancers (HNC) in radiation oncology in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) era is challenging. Aim of our work is to report organization strategies at a radiation therapy (RT) department in the first European area experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: We focused on (a) dedicated procedures for HNC, (b) RT scheduling, and (c) health care professionals' protection applied during the COVID-19 breakdown (from March 1, 2020 to April 30, 2020).

Results: Applied procedures are reported and discussed. Forty-three patients were treated. Image-guided, intensity modulated RT was performed in all cases. Median overall treatment time was 50 (interquartile range: 47-54.25) days. RT was interrupted/delayed in seven patients (16%) for suspected COVID-19 infection. Two health professionals managing HNC patients were proven as COVID-19 positive.

Conclusion: Adequate and well-timed organization allowed for the optimization of HNC patients balancing at the best of our possibilities patients' care and personnel's safety.

Keywords: COVID-19; departmental procedures; head and neck cancer; health care protections; radiation oncology.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / organization & administration
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Health
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Patient Safety
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / organization & administration
  • Radiotherapy, Image-Guided
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated
  • Workflow

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2