Survey: COVID-19 Affecting Patients’ Access to Cancer Care

Delays and Financial Strain Dominate Cancer Patients’ Experience in Pandemic

April 16, 2020

Bismarck, N.D.—Cancer patients and those who’ve recently completed treatment are finding it challenging to get necessary health care in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and many are experiencing financial stress trying to afford care in an increasingly difficult economic environment.

According to the latest survey from Survivor Views, a national cohort of cancer patients and survivors who complete surveys on a range of public policy issues important to the cancer community, half (51%) of all those surveyed reported some impact on their care due to the virus. Of those who’ve experienced an effect, nearly 1 in 4 report a delay in care or treatment.

Among just the respondents who remain in active treatment, more than a quarter (27%) report a delay in their care, and 13% say they don’t know when it will be rescheduled.

One-third of all patients say they’re worried about the impact COVID-19 will have on their ability to get care, a concern that is especially prevalent among patients in active treatment (40%).

Sara DCamp, a Fargo resident and colorectal cancer survivor, took the survey and relayed many concerns we feared hearing in the organization. “Facing cancer in the first place is a nerve-wracking experience. To pair that with the uncertainty of this unknown virus only increases the anxiety” DCamp said. “In the last 35 days I have only left the house to go to the infusion center and have had to face treatments alone without my spouse there for support” DCamp continued. Sara’s cancer treatment continues as of now, but after four years of battling cancer, she worries the treatment center will have to temporarily halt ongoing appointments due to COVID-19. In the state, ACS CAN is working to find innovative solutions to help our cancer patients and halt barriers to treatment during these unprecedented times.  

In addition to work ACS CAN is doing in North Dakota, patient groups are asking Congress and the administration to take action on policy changes that would help patients. Those changes include, creating a special enrollment period so uninsured or underinsured Americans can enroll in comprehensive health plans established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), increased funding for state Medicaid programs and subsidies to help people who lose their employer-sponsored health care afford their health insurance premiums for up to six months.

“The health effects of this pandemic stretch well beyond those diagnosed and suffering from COVID-19 and are having an acute and adverse impact on cancer patients, many of whom can’t afford treatment delays,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “Cancer patients are dealing with understandable, but in many cases, unsustainable delays in their care. This data shows the need for quick action in bolstering our health care system so we can both care for those diagnosed with the virus and for those facing a cancer diagnosis.”

The Survivor Views survey was conducted using a web-based instrument sent to 3,055 Survivor Views cohort members and promoted to non-panelist respondents through email and social media promotion.  The survey was taken by more than 1,200 cancer patients and survivors between March 25 and April 8, 2020 and has a margin of error +/- 3% and 96% confidence level.

For more on the results:

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