Cancer patients and survivors struggle with the effects of coronavirus because many are dealing with disturbances in their care, loss of income and concern about their ability to continue the life-saving care they need.
“My biggest concern is COVID right now because we are at the top and are likely to be infected, because I have had radiation therapy in my chest, I am a little more vulnerable than the average 37-year-old,” said New Hampshire resident Mike Sherry.
Sherry, who has been suffering from thyroid cancer since 2001, has not gone to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for her monthly routine appointment in the past two months because of coronavirus.
Sherry takes chemotherapy pills every day and takes part in clinical trials that require her to take monthly blood and meet with a doctor.
He had been visiting long-distance doctors and going to the blood lab in Manchester instead of going to Boston.
While Sherry said she felt lucky she was not in more active care, she was worried about medical bills on fixed income and exposure to the virus in public settings.
“If I’m sick, I don’t have a large margin of error before I need extra care,” Sherry said.
A recent survey from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network that surveyed 1,200 cancer patients and survivors across the country shows half of them have an impact on their health care due to coronavirus.
“That is very worrying for us and what really is alarming is the number of people who tell us that their treatment is delayed and they don’t know when they will return to the calendar,” said Amy Farner, project manager for administrative survey and analysis at the American Cancer Society .
More than a quarter of cancer patients report delays in their care and one third are worried about the impact of the virus on their ability to get the care needed.
“There is concern that changing or delaying or skipping treatment will affect the overall success of their treatment plan,” Farner said.
The most common treatments that have been delayed, canceled or changed because of a pandemic are visits to people, therapies and imaging procedures to monitor cancer growth, according to the survey.
Finance also concerns cancer patients. The survey showed 38% of respondents reported a significant impact on their financial situation that affected their ability to pay for care.
“They are all worried about how they will continue to pay for health care in this environment,” Farner said, noting that the pandemic was attacking all income groups.
Patient groups are now asking Congress to take action on policy changes including creating a special registration period, increased funding for the state Medicaid program and subsidies to help people who lose their employer-sponsored health care.
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