The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the diagnosis and treatment of ocular cancer

Arq Bras Oftalmol. 2023 Mar-Apr;86(2):127-130. doi: 10.5935/0004-2749.20230023.


Purpose: To evaluate the impact of social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic on the number of new cases and therapeutic approaches at the Ocular Oncology division from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP).

Methods: A retrospective study was conducted by medical records review of new patients treated before the pandemic from March 2019 to September 2019 (pre-pandemic group) and during the pandemic from March 2020 to September 2020 (pandemic group). Data regarding age, sex, ethnicity, place of origin, clinical diagnosis, time since referral, and proposed therapy were analyzed.

Results: We analyzed 186 new cases, 122 from the pre-pandemic group and 64 from the pandemic group, representing a decrease of 47.54% in new cases. There was no statistically significant change in sex, race, state of origin, history of cancer, age, or time with suspected cancer (p>0.05). A higher frequency of malignancies was observed in the pandemic group (68%) when compared to the pre-pandemic group (48.48%). Benign tumors were the most common diagnosis in the pre-pandemic group (41.80%), while conjunctival squamous cell carcinoma was the modal diagnosis in the pandemic group (31.25%). There was a decreasing trend (p=0.097) in the number of surgeries (-7.63%) and an increase in topical treatment (+10.68%). There was also a tendency to perform fewer surgeries in benign tumors and decreased follow-up visits.

Conclusion: Our findings showed a significant decrease in the number of new cases referred to the Ocular Oncology service. Moreover, the pandemic led to a switch in the therapeutic approach with preference to non-invasive treatments that would demand operating rooms. A drastic increase of cases perhaps in advanced stages might be expected because of the decrease observed in the first six months of quarantine.

MeSH terms

  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Eye Neoplasms*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Retrospective Studies