More than half of cancer patients have seen the COVID-19 pandemic impact their treatment or recovery, according to a survey of 3,055 cancer patients and survivors.
The survey conducted by the Cancer Action Network of the American Cancer Society found of those who have been impacted, nearly 1 in 4 report a delay in care or treatment.
Among those 1 in 4, the most common delays were for in-person provider appointments; delayed access to imaging services to determine if a patient’s cancer had grown or returned; access to supportive services, including physical therapy or mental health care; and access to surgical procedures.
Bryte Johnson, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Connecticut, said 27% of patients who are currently in active treatment reported a delay in their treatment and more than 13% of those have had their treatment delayed without knowledge of when it will be rescheduled.
Johnson also worries that when things return to normal state funding for breast and cervical cancer treatments for low-income Connecticut women or Medicaid coverage for tobacco cessation might also be cut to make up for the revenue losses the state is expected to face over the next year.
“As people become unemployed and lose their health insurance these programs might be the last shot for many to get their cancer detected at an early stage,” Johnson said.
On Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont sent a letter to President Donald Trump estimating that the coronavirus pandemic has already cost the state $500 million and could rise to $1.5 billion. Lamont asked Trump to provide more federal support for Connecticut’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, above and beyond the $2.4 trillion approved nationwide by Congress.
“The size and scope of this public health emergency is unprecedented,” the governor said in a statement.
In his letter to Trump, Lamont said, “the human and fiscal costs to Connecticut are staggering.”
Cancer patients nationwide are worried.
The survey released Wednesday found that one-third of all patients are worried about the impact of COVID-19 on their ability to get care.
“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.”
Reduced work hours and lost jobs are of particular concern because these have the potential to impact access to health insurance.
Of the respondents who reported that they or family member living with them had lost a job, 43% and employer-sponsored coverage. Of those who reported they or a family member had their hours reduced, 58% percent had employer-sponsored health insurance.
While the economic stress is prevalent across all respondents, the concern is especially pronounced among patients with lower- and middle-class incomes. Nearly half of those earning $30,000 or less say they’re worried about affording their care (46%); more than a third (34%) of those earning up to $60,000 are worried and a quarter (25%) of those earning up to $110,000 are concerned.
“Cancer patients and survivors are facing threats on multiple fronts right now, including the struggle to get and afford health care,” Lacasse said. “Now is the time for our lawmakers to do all they can to address and help alleviate these challenges.”