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

Delays and Financial Strain Dominate Cancer Patients’ Experience in Pandemic

April 16, 2020

MISSOULA, Montana—Cancer patients and those who’ve recently completed treatment are finding it challenging to get necessary health care amid 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. 

"We found that 27% of patients who are currently in active treatment reported a delay in their treatment," said Kristin Page Nei, the Montana government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "More than 13% of patients had their treatment delayed without knowledge of when it will be rescheduled."

Additionally, 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%). 

Access to health care is more important than ever, and patient groups are working together to ask Congress and the administration to act 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 ACS CAN. "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."

Like many across the country, cancer patients are also feeling economic stress in the wake of the pandemic. Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) respondents say COVID-19 is having a notable effect on their ability to afford their care, due mostly to reduced work hours (14%). Reduced work hours and lost jobs are of particular concern because these have the potential to impact access to health insurance. 

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:  


The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit

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