COVID-19 IMPACT ON CANCER PATIENTS: DAVID WEST’S STORY

ROCK HILL, S.C. (CN2 TODAY) The COVID-19 Pandemic has left a huge impact on those battling cancer.

The American Cancer Action Network recently conducted a survey finding out that cancer patients and survivors are finding it increasingly challenging to get necessary health care as thr pandemic continues.

In the video above hear from David West who is battling Inoperable Stage IV Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Cancer and how the pandemic has impacted him.

Below is the information on the survey from the American Cancer Action Network.

 

Survey: Cancer Patients Increasingly Face COVID-19 Health Impact
Second Survey Finds More Delays in Care, Financial Strain, and Negative Mental Health Effects–

 WASHINGTON, D.C. — June 9, 2020 — Cancer patients and survivors are finding it increasingly challenging to get necessary health care as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Many are experiencing financial stress and mental health issues as they try to navigate the difficult health and economic environment.

An American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) survey of cancer patients and survivors focused on COVID-19 effects found 87% of respondents said the pandemic had affected their health care in some manner, up from 51% in an April survey. Of those in active treatment 79% reported delays to their health care (up from 27%), including 17% of patients who reported delays to their cancer therapy.

“Accessing treatment right now has been a terrifying prospect for cancer patients like myself who, with a compromised immune system, are in a higher risk group of contracting COVID-19,” shared David West, a Columbia resident who was one of the more than 1,200 cancer patients to participate in the survey. “At the beginning of the pandemic, my oncologist stopped my oral chemotherapy due to my weakened immune system. Now, I’m starting up again and lucky to continue treatment from the safety of my home, but I’m worried about how I will afford my oral chemotherapy.”

Some insurance plans impose different out-of-pocket costs for oral chemotherapy drugs versus intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. A patients’ out-of-pocket costs for oral therapies can be significantly higher under these plans. South Carolina is one of a mere seven states that has failed to enact oral chemotherapy fairness to close this gap in coverage. Because of a lack of protective legislation, West has paid significantly more for a one-time oral medication in South Carolina compared to the zero copay he’s paid for a similar drug in an IV form.

“The situation is getting worse, not better for cancer patients during this pandemic,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “Health practitioners continue to work to balance safety for an immunocompromised population at increased risk for contracting COVID with timely treatment to prevent the spread of cancer. Unfortunately, this results in delays in treatment for many cancer patients.”

Patients are also under significant financial strain. Forty-six percent said the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted their financial situation and ability to pay for care in some way (up from 38%). And nearly a quarter (23%) said they worry they may lose their health insurance due to the pandemic and its effects on the economy.

This combined medical and financial stress has resulted in nearly half (48%) of patients saying the COVID-19 pandemic has had a moderate or major effect on their mental health. In particular, 67% said they worry it will be harder for them to stay safe when social distancing and other restrictions are relaxed in their area.

 

The survey also collected feedback from a small group of providers and caregivers who similarly reported concern about delayed care and difficulties providing support for patients while being unable to see them, as well as a lack of personal protective equipment. Caregivers, like patients, reported anxiety over reopening and the increased potential for their and their loved one’s to be adversely affected.

West’s oncologist also expressed concern over cancer screenings that could not be performed during this time due to limits placed on procedures and contact with new patients. Although the screenings are non-essential procedures, they provide early indications for cancer.

“A cancer diagnosis brings any number of challenges and stressors, but right now it’s even more fraught with additional barriers to timely and affordable care that could be further exacerbated by job loss – like millions of Americans have already endured,” said Lacasse. “COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the barriers to affordable health care that cancer patients have long faced. The survey responses highlight the increasing and urgent need for Congress to swiftly pass measures that help these patients alleviate their physical, financial and emotional strain during and beyond the pandemic.”

West and other advocates across South Carolina are urging state lawmakers to enact the Cancer Drug Parity Act (H 4792) and ensure cancer patients can receive life-saving treatment from the safety of their home and without fear of unaffordable cost.

“By requiring health plans to equalize cost-sharing for oral chemotherapy as for IV chemotherapy, Congress could not only make access to treatment easier for South Carolinians with cancer but also help reduce our already heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19,” noted West. “Oral chemotherapy should be covered with similar out-of-pocket costs to IV chemotherapy. Cancer doesn’t stop, and neither can we.”

The web-based survey was taken by more than 1,200 cancer patients and survivors between April 30 and May 14. This sample provides a margin of error +/- 3% and 96% confidence level. For full results, click here.