Supplementary information accompanies this paper at https://doi.org/10.1186/s13014-020-01609-0.
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Starting in December 2019, the current pandemic caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) confronts the world with an unprecedented challenge. With no vaccine or drug being currently available to control the pandemic spread, prevention and PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) testing becomes a crucial pillar of medical systems. Aim of the present study was to report on the first results of the measures taken in a large German Department of Radiation Oncology, including PCR testing of asymptomatic cancer patients.
Pandemic-adapted hygiene regulations and prevention measures for patients and staff were implemented. A visiting ban on both wards was implemented from the beginning and medical staff and patients were required to wear face masks at all times. The waiting rooms were rearranged to ensure distance between patients of at least 1.5 m. Clinical follow up was mainly done by telephone and all patients had to complete a questionnaire regarding symptoms and contacts with COVID-19 patients before entering our department. Educational documents were created for patients to raise awareness of symptoms and avoidance strategies for interactions with other people. Indications for therapy and fractionation schemes were adapted when possible. In a subsequent step, all new asymptomatic patients were tested via nasopharyngeal swab at our screening station shortly before their simulation CT.
All these measures and implementations have been well accepted semiquantitatively measured by the consent received from patients and staff. Regarding the PCR testing, only 1 out of 139 asymptomatic patients of our cohort so far tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, reflecting a prevalence of 0.72% in this cancer patient population. Up to this point no staff members was tested positive. The start of the treatment for the PCR-positive patient was deferred for 2 weeks.
Due to the pandemic-adapted implementations, our department seems well prepared during this crisis. The initial screening helps to identify asymptomatic COVID-19 patients in order to protect other patients and our staff from infection and the observed PCR prevalence is in line with comparable studies. A regular PCR testing (e.g. twice a week) of all patients and staff would in principle be desirable but is limited due to testing capacities at present.