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Cancer patients, survivors face challenges from coronavirus pandemic

Cancer patients and survivors are having a hard time during the coronavirus pandemic, as many had their appointments and treatments delayed in the spring. (Jordan Allred, Deseret News)

Cancer patients and survivors are having a hard time during the coronavirus pandemic. This comes after many had their appointments and treatments delayed in the spring.

Now they face challenges getting those rescheduled.

A survey from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) found 87% of respondents said the pandemic affected their health care in some way. Another 79% experienced delays.

They also faced challenges reaching their providers with questions about their health care.

Pandemic causes concern among cancer patients, survivors

This comes amid other pandemic-caused worries, such as financial stress through job losses or furloughs. This adds up to a lot of stress and mental health impacts.

“COVID-19 is having a big impact on cancer patients and survivors in our country, ” said Brook Carlisle, Utah Government Relations Director with ACS CAN.  “Unfortunately COVID-19 is having impacts that people don’t think about. And one of those is on cancer patients’ ability to get treatment, and survivors the need to get their follow-up care. “

During the spring, Carlisle said, the pandemic disrupted many patients’ lives.

“If it was deemed non-essential, they would see that delayed,” she said. “Not getting chemo or surgery is really scary.”

Carlisle said this shines a spotlight on the barriers and financial hardships for people with cancer. Now, some are still afraid to see their provider because they worry about leaving home and being exposed to the virus.

Some have to travel a long way from their homes to the treatment center, hospital or doctor’s office — further preventing them from going.

Unsure what future will hold

“The longer this goes on, the worse I think it’s going to be for cancer patients,” Carlisle said. “While our survey focuses on patients and survivors, the impact of this pandemic especially on those not getting follow up care or preventative care, kind of remains to be seen.”

Carlisle said the organization will do follow-up surveys to see if the picture improves over time.