How the Pandemic Changed Breast Cancer Treatments


The U.S. effectively shut down in March of 2020. Not only were schools switched to virtual and millions began working remotely, but hospital space was at a premium. This meant many surgeries and procedures were put off as ORs were converted for COVID-19 patient care.

But breast cancer didn’t stop. It didn’t yield to the shut-down dictated by the pandemic. Oncology teams had to get creative. Treatments couldn’t necessarily be done the same way, in the same order that had become the standard care because operating rooms and hospital space was scarce. Not knowing how long the postponement may last led to thousands of patients having their treatment and data tracked to understand the short- and long-term results of these new treatment methodologies.

Breast Cancer Treatment Order

One of the new ideas developed during these suddenly restricted conditions was to reverse the order of care in treating certain types of cancer. A common type of breast cancer, estrogen-receptive positive (ER+) is generally considered to have a good outlook and is treatable. In these cases, physicians began treating the cancer with a medication known as NET first and delaying surgery until OR space became available. In the past, surgery would be done first, followed by NET.

Evaluating the patient and cancer DNA also became more important than ever. Determining the makeup of the tumor and possible gene mutations ensured patients with more aggressive cancers still received appropriate standards of care, including chemo, to fight the cancer.

But this better understanding meant the premium space could be given to those with a more difficult cancer to treat, while this reverse order of care for others could safely bridge the gap until surgery could be scheduled.

Fortunately, practitioners and researchers already had previous clinical trial results to support the belief that this could work without negatively impacting the patients’ results.

What Does this Mean Moving Forward?

The hospitals and ORs are fully open again here in Tennessee. But the results of these treatments are still being studied. The full impact may not be recognized for three-to-five years. And even though, in many places, the prior order of care has reverted back to it’s pre-pandemic standard, researchers and surgeons may rethink when and how medications like NET may benefit future patients.

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, discuss all the treatment options with your provider, including timing and order of treatment, based on your specific type of cancer. And know that as you walk this journey, the staff at Pretty in Pink Boutique is here to support you, pre- and post-surgery. Contact us at 615-777-7465 or email us at [email protected] to schedule your appointment for fittings of prostheses or to shop mastectomy and lumpectomy wear or compression garments.

Pretty in Pink Boutique Locations & Contact

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Franklin TN
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Hendersonville TN
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