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

Delays and Financial Strain Dominate Cancer Patients’ Experience in Pandemic

April 17, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — 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.

“In Tennessee to help improve access to care, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is pushing the state legislature and governor to expand Medicaid, also known as TennCare,” said Emily Ogden, Tennessee government relations director for ACS CAN. “This pandemic has shined a light on how important access to care quality health care is for all Tennesseans. This pandemic has caused unexpected financial hardships, and reduced hospital capacity for cancer screenings and treatment. It has never been more important to reduce barriers to cancer care for Tennesseans.”

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%). 

 In addition to the work ACS CAN is doing in Tennessee, patient groups are working together to ask 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 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.” 

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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