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Surviving cancer and the coronavirus

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Cancer patients are having more and more trouble getting health care as the pandemic persists.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network surveyed patients fighting the biggest battle of their lives, just as this deadly virus came on the scene.

Of those surveyed who are in active treatment, 79 percent reported delays to their health care. That’s up 27 percent from an April survey.

We asked the ACS North Dakota’s Government Relations Director Deb Knuth if this pandemic has the potential to affect the overall outcome of someone’s treatment or even survival.

“Oh, of course,” Knuth responded.

Daphne Hall, now a cancer survivor, was diagnosed with advanced-stage ovarian cancer back in 2012. She says it was tough enough back then.

“There’s always some worry… a lot of worry for some people that it might reoccur. To have to wait, you know, even a month or two months, to get those recheck appointments and such just really can create a lot of additional emotional and mental stress. It really can,” Hall shared.

She says she knows of a few people dealing with this.

Knuth says the minute the pandemic hit the state, she was concerned it would affect cancer patients’ access to treatment, prescriptions and surgeries.

We asked her, even when elective surgeries were being postponed, wouldn’t cancer treatment be considered essential?

She answered, “Well, you would certainly think so. Although I had heard that people who needed colonoscopies were even told to wait, skin cancer checks, that type of thing. And normally, skin cancer checks can take six to eight months, so that’s all very concerning.”

But patients aren’t just worried about access to treatment, they’re worried about how to pay for it.

46 percent of survey respondents said the pandemic has impacted their ability to pay for care.

Not to mention, the isolation in healthcare facilities today.

“My chemo appointments would be like a 12 hour day. And I can’t imagine sitting there for 12 hours without someone to talk to,” Hall reminisced.

On a positive note, Knuth says things have begun to improve following the survey, and she hasn’t spoken to any patients in the last couple of weeks who couldn’t get their chemotherapy on time.

Although, she says as the economy continues to re-open, that breeds additional concerns for cancer patients who are generally immuno-compromised.

The Bismarck Cancer Center told us they’ve been busier than ever.

They’ve seen a 10 to 15 percent increase in patients in the last few months, and have had to go from eight to sometimes, 12 hour days.

The Cancer Center wasn’t sure what to attribute this to, but assured us they have not at any point reduced services because of the pandemic.

The American Cancer Society says it will continue surveying as months go on.

For access to resources and financial help, you can find services on the following websites:

  • www.cancer.org
  • www.fightcancer.org

Knuth says the ACS is keeping track of insurance issues brought on by the pandemic.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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