Modeling the Impact of Delaying the Diagnosis of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer During COVID-19.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led surgical societies to recommend delaying diagnosis and treatment of suspected lung cancer for lesions less than 2 cm. Delaying diagnosis can lead to disease progression, but the impact of this delay on mortality is unknown. The COVID-19 infection rate at which immediate operative risk exceeds benefit is unknown. We sought to model immediate versus delayed surgical resection in a suspicious lung nodule less than 2 cm.

A decision analysis model was developed, and sensitivity analyses performed. The base case was a 65-year-old male smoker with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease presenting for surgical biopsy of a 1.5 to 2 cm lung nodule highly suspicious for cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. We compared immediate surgical resection to delayed resection after 3 months. The likelihood of key outcomes was derived from the literature where available. The outcome was 5-year overall survival.

Immediate surgical resection resulted in a similar but slightly higher 5-year overall survival when compared with delayed resection (0.77 versus 0.74) owing to the risk of disease progression. However, if the probability of acquired COVID-19 infection is greater than 13%, delayed resection is favorable (0.74 vs 0.73).

Immediate surgical biopsy of lung nodules suspicious for cancer in hospitals with low COVID-19 prevalence likely results in improved 5-year survival. However, as the risk of perioperative COVID-19 infection increases above 13%, a delayed approach has similar or improved survival. This balance should be frequently reexamined at each health care facility throughout the curve of the pandemic.

Deppen SA, Grogan EL, Haddad DN, Kozower BD, Shipe ME

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Ann Thorac Surg, 2021, 112 (1)

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