Background: For melanoma patients, timely identification and tumor thickness are directly correlated with outcomes. COVID-19 impacted both patients' ability and desire to see physicians. We sought to identify whether the pandemic correlated with changes in melanoma thickness at presentation and subsequent treatment timeline.
Methods: Retrospective chart review was performed on patients who underwent surgery for melanoma in an academic center surgical oncology practice from May 2019 to September 2021. Patients were split into two cohorts: "pre-pandemic" from May 2019 to May 2020 and "pandemic," after May 2020, representing when these patients received their initial diagnostic biopsy. Demographic and melanoma-specific variables were recorded and analyzed.
Results: A total of 112 patients were identified: 51 patients from the "pre-pandemic" and 61 from the "pandemic" time period. The pandemic cohort more frequently presented with lesions greater than 1 mm thickness compared to pre-pandemic (68.8% v 49%, p = 0.033) and were found to have significantly more advanced T stage (p = 0.02) and overall stage disease (p = 0.022). Additionally, trends show that for pandemic patients more time passed from patient-reported lesion appearance/change to diagnostic biopsy (5.7 ± 2.0 v 7.1 ± 1.5 months, p = 0.581), but less time from biopsy to operation (42.9 ± 2.4 v 52.9 ± 5.0 days, p = 0.06).
Conclusions: "Pandemic" patients presented with thicker melanoma lesions and more advanced-stage disease. These results may portend a dangerous trend toward later stage at presentation, for melanoma and other cancers with rapid growth patterns, that will emerge as the prolonged effects of the pandemic continue to impact patients' presentation for medical care.
Lamm, MD, Ryan; Lyons, MD, Walker; So, RN, Winnie; and Willis, MD, FACS, MSPH, Alliric I., "Advanced-Stage Melanoma at Presentation Following the Peak of the Pandemic: A COVID-19 Cancer Canary in a Coal Mine" (2022). Department of Surgery Faculty Papers. Paper 221.