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Ozarks Tonight: COVID-19 delays cancer care and treatment

Ozarks Tonight

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Recently, hospitals in the Southwest Missouri area announced they would be resuming elective procedures and visits canceled due to COVID-19 precautions as to limit the number of people coming into their buildings.

Some cancer patients were among those who had their appointments canceled. And those visits included procedures, imaging services, other care like physical or mental health therapy.

In this Ozarks Tonight, Jenifer Abreu talks to Tim Freeman, the Missouri grassroots manager for ACS CAN, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, about the impact COVID-19 precautions have had on cancer patients.

The American Cancer Society recently released a survey conducted with cancer patients about how their appointments were impacted.

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The results show that of those patients who reported experiencing an effect, nearly one in four said they had a delay in care or treatment. The most common delays were for in-person provider appointments at 50%.

The survey shows 20% of respondents had their imaging services delayed. Those images help determine if a patient’s cancer had grown or returned. Another 20% reported having supportive services, including physical therapy or mental health care, delayed. Eight percent said they had delays in surgical procedures.

According to the American Cancer Society, 27% of patients in treatment reported a delay in their treatment appointments. And one in eight patients had care delayed without knowledge of when it would get rescheduled.

The organization says many patients are also experiencing financial stress. That’s why they are pushing for legislators to include provisions in the COVID-19 relief bills that will help patients and cancer care.

Regarding assistance for patients, Freeman says ACS CAN has been advocating for specific things to be included.

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The most recent bill passed by the U.S. House included subsidies to help workers who lost their jobs keep their employer-sponsored coverage for up to six months, and some federal funding to expand COVID-19 research and help restart clinical trials that were shut down.

The American Cancer Society says other provisions it supports are:

  • creating a particular enrollment period for uninsured or underinsured Americans to enroll in health plans under the Affordable Care Act
  • increased funding for state Medicaid programs

Freeman says ACS CAN members have been reaching out to elected officials, including Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Josh Hawley, and Congressman Billy Long, to support these measures.

He says ACS CAN is one organization that’s part of the One Voice Against Cancer Coalition pushing for measures protecting and improving cancer care. In-person lobby days were canceled, but volunteers have been in touch with elected officials over the phone, Freeman says.

Freeman says Jerry Neville, the state lead ambassador for ACS CAN Missouri, has been doing just that and reported those calls went well and all elected officials he spoke with were supportive.

Connect with ACS CAN on Facebook and on Twitter.

Freeman says the best way to get involved and help is by sharing your or a loved one’s story. You can do so here.

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

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