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Cancer Care and COVID-19

COVID-19 information for cancer clinicians

This page contains COVID-19 guidance for cancer clinicians and the COVID-19 and Cancer Services Monitoring Reports.

COVID-19 information for patients and whānau can be found HERE.

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Monitoring Reports 2021-22

Te Aho o Te Kahu restarted monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on cancer services in August 2021 when the Delta variant of COVID-19 began to circulate in the community. These reports use available DHB data to rapidly measure the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on cancer care. The ongoing reports enable recovery tracking and health system support.

Report to end June 2022

This is the fourth report to include data from the Omicron outbreak and covers the period up to June 2022, except for cancer registration data which were available up to May 2022.

Cancer registrations show a 9% increase overall compared with the average of May 2018/19 (ie, pre-COVID-19). For Māori there was an 8% increase in registrations over this time. Overall, for 2022 to date there were 4% fewer cancer surgeries performed compared to the average of 2018/19, due to lower volumes of colorectal cancer and breast cancer surgeries. For Māori, there has been a 3% increase in combined cancer surgeries for the year to date relative to 2018/19 however, the proportion of Māori lung cancer surgery in particular was down by 25% for the year to date relative to 2018/19 (16 fewer surgeries).

For 2022 to date, medical oncology first specialist assessments (FSAs) increased by 2% compared to the same period in 2018/19 and IV chemotherapy increased by 10%. Radiation oncology FSAs increased by 6% for 2022 to date compared to 2018/19; however, radiation therapy attendances and completed radiation therapy courses both decreased by 11% compared to 2018/19. For haematology, there was a 5% decrease in FSAs for 2022 to date, and an increase of 13% for IV chemotherapy attendances compared with 2018/19.

Overall, there is evidence of some downturns in delivery of some services, and these downturns are likely to be the result of the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the normal delivery of care, with the added impact of other illnesses such as influenza. Te Aho o Te Kahu acknowledges the ongoing pressures on the cancer care system at this time, in particular on the cancer workforce due to staff illness and capacity issues as a result of COVID-19 and other illnesses. That this reporting shows many comparable results to the pre-pandemic period suggests that cancer care staff are working diligently to ensure the continuation of cancer care in Aotearoa New Zealand. Te Aho o Te Kahu continues to work with the sector and will monitor and further investigate downturns in service delivery, with particularly focus on evidence on inequity (such as lung cancer surgery for Māori).

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Report to end June 2022 (Word 5MB)

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Report to end June 2022 (PDF 5MB)

Report to end April 2022

This is the third report to include data from the Omicron outbreak and covers the period up to April 2022.

Cancer registrations data show a small decrease in April 2022 compared to the same month in 2018/19, however, 2022 to date has seen a 4% increase in cancer registrations compared to 2018/19.

There was a decrease in cancer surgeries in April 2022 for the whole population compared with 2018/19. While there was a larger decrease for Māori cancer surgeries in April 2022, this was not reflected in cumulative 2022 data. Medical oncology first specialist assessments and IV chemotherapy in the year to date were the same or increased compared to the same period in 2018/19. Radiation oncology first specialist appointments and radiation therapy attendances were lower in April 2022 compared with 2018/19. Haematology first specialist assessments were lower in the year to date relative to the same time period in 2018/19, however there was an increase in the provision of IV chemotherapy for haematology compared with 2018/19.

Overall, the impact of the COVID-19 Omicron community outbreak on cancer services in 2022 does not appear to be as substantial as that seen during the initial outbreak and lockdown in 2020. Te Aho o Te Kahu continues to work with the sector and will monitor and further investigate as necessary.

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Report to end April 2022 (Word 4MB)

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Report to end April 2022 (PDF 4MB)

Report to end March 2022

This is the second report to include data from the Omicron outbreak, and covers the period up to March 2022. For this report, March 2022 data is compared with March 2018/19. In contrast to earlier in 2022, cancer registration data for March show an increase across all ethnicities compared to 2018/19. There was a decrease in cancer surgeries in March 2022 compared with 2018/19, however this decrease was less pronounced than was observed earlier in 2022. There were increases in the provision of medical oncology treatment in March 2022 compared with March 2018/19. The decrease in first specialist assessments for haematology in January 2022 compared with January 2018/19 has resolved in March for the total population, but requires further monitoring for Māori. There were small decreases for radiation oncology attendances which will continue to be monitored. Overall, the impact of the COVID-19 Omicron community outbreak on cancer services in 2022 is not as substantial as that seen during the initial outbreak and lockdown in 2020. Te Aho o Te Kahu continues to work with the sector and will monitor and further investigate as necessary.

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Report to end March 2022 (Word 4MB)

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Report to end March 2022 (PDF 4MB)

Report to end February 2022 (including January data)

This is the first report to include data from the Omicron outbreak and covers up to February 2022. Cancer services have been disrupted during the January and February period nationally. In January there was a lower number of registrations nationally and in February there was a higher number of registrations nationally. For Māori there were 16% fewer registrations in January and 17% fewer registrations in February 2022 compared with February 2021. The impact is not as substantial as that seen during the initial lockdown and outbreak in 2020, particularly during the month of April 2020, however these data are of concern. Te Aho o Te Kahu is returning to monthly monitoring and continues to work with the sector to ensure there is rapid recovery.

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Report to end February (Word 5MB)

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Report to end February (PDF 4MB)

Report to end December 2021 (including November data)

Overall, publicly funded cancer treatment services continued during the COVID-19 Delta outbreak beginning in August 2021. The dip in cancer registrations seen during August 2021 has resolved, with similar or higher numbers of cancer registrations seen in 2021 compared to previous years. The disruption to gastrointestinal endoscopy procedures seen August/September in the Auckland region has resolved. There has been some disruption to bronchoscopy procedures, not limited to Auckland. Te Aho o Te Kahu is following up on several items, including the disruption to bronchoscopy procedures. The overall impact of COVID-19 on cancer diagnoses in 2021 is considerably smaller than the disruption seen in April and May 2020.

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Report to end December (Word 5MB)

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Report to end December (PDF 5MB)

Report to end October 2021

This report found that the dip in cancer registrations seen during August 2021 has resolved. There was some nationwide disruption to bronchoscopy procedures which Te Aho o Te Kahu is currently looking into. Publicly funded cancer treatment – including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy – continued across the Auckland region from August to October 2021. The disruption to gastrointestinal endoscopy procedures identified in previous reports for the Auckland region has resolved. For the year to date, attendances for radiation oncology first specialist appointments have increased. Radiation therapy volumes in the Auckland region follow a similar pattern to that seen across New Zealand, with an overall decrease in volumes, likely due to the use of hypofractionation where cancers are treated over a shorter time period. For Māori, there appears to be a greater decrease in radiation therapy volumes between October 2021 and October 2018/19. Te Aho o Te Kahu is looking into this.

COVID-19 and cancer services to end October 2021 (Word 5MB)

COVID-19 and cancer services to end October 2021 (PDF 5MB)

Report to end September 2021

This report found publicly funded cancer treatment services continued during the 2021 COVID-19 lockdown. The dip in cancer registrations seen during August 2021 has resolved, with an increase in new diagnoses of cancer in September 2021. There was some disruption to diagnostic procedures, most notably in the Auckland region. However, the overall impact of COVID-19 on diagnoses is considerably smaller and shorter-lived than the disruption seen in April and May 2020. To date, COVID-19 does not appear to have increased inequities in access to cancer services for Māori.

COVID-19 and cancer services to end September 2021 (Word 5MB)

COVID-19 and cancer services to end September 2021 (PDF 5MB)

Report to end August 2021

This report found that cancer treatment services were largely maintained during the August 2021 COVID-19 lockdown. However, there was a disruption to diagnostic services, contributing to a 9% reduction in new cancer diagnoses. In general, the disruptions to the cancer care pathway have impacted Māori less than non-Māori.

COVID-19 and cancer services to end August 2021 (Word 4.1MB)

COVID-19 and cancer services to end August 2021 (PDF 4.2MB)

COVID-19 and Cancer Services Monitoring Reports 2020

This series of reports analyses the impact of COVID-19 on cancer services at both a national and DHB level. The initial report rapidly measured the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on cancer care. The ongoing monthly reports enable recovery tracking and DHB support.

Report to end October 2020 (including September data)

There has now been the same number of new cancer diagnoses made in 2020 as were made in 2019. In general, the COVID-19 response does not appear to have increased inequities in the cancer system; however, the concerning exception is lung cancer. This report includes a section looking at lung cancer in more detail, aiming to describe the inequities in detail and consider what the potential drivers of these inequities are.

Report to end August 2020

COVID-19 and Cancer Report to End August 2020

There continues to be an increase in new cancer registrations in August 2020. This report shows we have nearly caught up on the dip in cancer registrations seen over the lockdown period. Cancer treatment services – surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology and haematology – continued during the COVID-19 lockdown and continue to be delivered at pre-COVID volumes in the months since.

Report to end July 2020

There continues to be an increase in new cancer registrations and diagnostic procedures in July 2020. This report shows that we are continuing to catch up on the dip in cancer registrations seen over the lockdown period. The overall number of diagnostic procedures and new cancer registrations in 2020 remains somewhat lower than 2019, but the gap continues to close. Cancer treatment services – surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology and haematology – continued during the COVID-19 lockdown and continue to be delivered at pre-COVID volumes in the months since.

Report to end June 2020

There has been a substantial increase in new cancer registrations and diagnostic procedures in June compared to May 2020. This report shows that we are catching up on cancer registrations from the lockdown period. The overall number of diagnostic procedures and new cancer registrations in 2020 remains lower than 2019. Cancer treatment services – surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology and haematology – continued during the COVID-19 lockdown and continue to be delivered at pre-COVID volumes.

Report to end May 2020

These reports shows an increase in new registrations and diagnostic procedures in May compared to April 2020. The overall number of diagnostic procedures and new cancer registrations in 2020 remains lower than 2019. The disruptions to diagnostic services seen in April 2020 are now showing up in medical oncology, radiation oncology and haematology services, with fewer attendances in May.

Broken down by DHB:
Nationally:
Report on Initial Impact of COVID 2020

This report found that cancer treatment services were largely maintained during the COVID-19 lockdown. This was the result of a rapid collective response from the cancer sector across New Zealand. However, there was a large disruption to diagnostic services, contributing to a significant reduction in new cancer diagnoses. In general, the disruptions to the cancer care pathway have not increased inequities for Māori to date.

Useful COVID-19 links for cancer clinicians

With the introduction of Omicron into the community information is rapidly evolving. Te Aho o Te Kahu will update information as available however the following Ministry of Health resources may be useful:

Guidance for critical health services during an Omicron outbreak

Rapid Antigen Testing

Advice for all health professionals

The Ministry of Health sends out a regular key messages update which you can sign up for here.

Cancer and COVID-19 vaccines


Everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand aged five and over can get a free COVID-19 vaccine now. One of the most important things you can do is to get a vaccination for yourself and your whānau.

Before a COVID-19 vaccine can be administered in New Zealand it must be approved by MedSafe. This provides assurance of its safety, quality and effectiveness. Information about the COVID-19 vaccines in general can be found here.

Information on the national COVID-19 roll-out strategy can be found here.

Te Aho o Te Kahu initially released advice for clinicians on COVID-19 vaccines and cancer in March 2021. A number of subsequent versions have been released:

  • Version 2 was released in June 2021 (updates included further evidence, rollout information, importance of timing for second dose of vaccine and advice on lymphoedema).
  • In July 2021 Version 3 was released (updated information on imaging).
  • Version 4 was released in August 2021 and included updated advice on vaccination in the context of B-cell depleting therapy and stem cell transplantation.
  • Version 5 was released in October 2021 and includes information on the third primary vaccine dose for severely immunocompromised people
  • On 13 December 2021 Version 6 was released (below). This includes advice on AstraZeneca, further information on the third primary dose for severely immunocompromised people, information on a repeat course of COVID-19 vaccine following stem cell transplantation and three new FAQs.

Our current advice:

Advice for clinicians on COVID-19 vaccines and cancer: Version 6 (Word 139 KB)

Advice for clinicians on COVID-19 vaccines and cancer: Version 6 (PDF 405 KB)

FAQs.PNG

We have also provided some answers to frequently asked questions for whānau living with cancer. These can be downloaded here:

Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and cancer (Word 90 KB)

Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and cancer (PDF 100 KB)

Content last updated 16 September 2022