Coronavirus News: COVID-19 pandemic takes toll on cancer patients, survivors

Wednesday, June 3, 2020
LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- The coronavirus pandemic put a lot of elective medical procedures on hold, but it's also had a dramatic impact on cancer patients and survivors.

"It's honestly a terrifying feeling," Adina Perullo said.

She is emotional just at the thought of the pandemic taking away her control over cancer, but that's exactly what's happening to patients and survivors surveyed recently by the American Cancer Society.

"It's really scary numbers," American Cancer Society Government Relations Director Julie Hart said. "I mean, it's almost 90% reporting that this is having some type of impact on their care."

They call the increase staggering. Of the 1,200 patients and survivors surveyed in the first two weeks of May, 87% said the pandemic has affected their health care. That's compared to 51% in April.

Also, nearly 80% of cancer patients are reporting delays to their health care, up from just 27% the month before.

There's a financial component as well, with nearly half those surveyed saying COVID-19 has impacted their finances and and nearly a quarter of the cancer patients worried they'll lose their health insurance.

For Perullo, a 36-year-old breast cancer survivor from Levittown who tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation, the concern now is preventing ovarian cancer since her hysterectomy has postponed indefinitely since April.

"We're two months in, and there's no communication as to when it's going to be put back onto the schedule," she said.

And for patients like her who survived because they stayed proactive, there's an incredible sense of anxiety.

"My nerves are pretty much off the charts, because I am no longer in control of this situation," she said. "I can't act on the possibility that cancer could be growing in my body."

The American Cancer Society is urging patients not to be afraid to call their providers, and to be persistent in finding the solutions right for them -- solutions that could be lifesaving.

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