ASCO Survey Measures COVID-19 Effect on Cancer Treatment

October 5, 2020

During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, patients are more likely to have delayed cancer screenings rather than their doctors and clinics.

Nearly 24% of patients with cancer delayed screenings because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a recently released American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) survey of 1142 individuals with current or past cancer diagnoses. The survey included 4012 individuals overall, including caregivers and family members.

Among those who delayed screenings, the patient made the decision to cancel or delay a screening two-thirds of the time; 63% of patients who delayed or skipped screenings reported being concerned about these delays, ASCO said.

The survey addressed not only COVID-19 issues but also perceptions of how an individual’s race affects access to the best quality cancer care. ASCO said 59% of those surveyed agreed racism affects the quality of care an individual receives in the US health care system, 53% said Black Americans are less likely to have access to the same quality of cancer care as White Americans, and 19% said race affects a person’s likelihood of surviving cancer.

Non-White respondents were more likely to agree that race affects quality of care in the United States (Black, 76%; Hispanic, 70%; Asian, 66%; White, 53%), and Black adults are more likely than White adults to have not been scheduled for any cancer screening appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic (68% vs 61%).

Clinical Trial Perceptions

The survey findings indicated 75% of respondents would be willing to participate in a clinical trial for cancer treatment if they had cancer; however, just 53% said they are knowledgeable about clinical trials, and 48% said they believe patients with cancer who participate in clinical trials do not receive the best possible care and “are just part of an experiment.”

Among patients with cancer who have limited their contact with others to avoid contracting COVID-19, 84% were White and 73% were Black. The survey said 49% of patients with cancer have made “a lot of sacrifices” in their daily living because of their higher risk for contracting COVID-19, with more Blacks indicating so than Whites (61% vs 47%).

Many also indicated they have not had enough emotional support (33%) or help (22%), such as for picking up medications, during the pandemic.

ASCO said two-thirds of family members and caregivers would like to do more to support their loved ones with cancer in both practical and emotional ways.

The types of effects on cancer care caused by the pandemic reported by those with current or past cancer included delayed visits (16%), doctor consultations made via telehealth instead of in person (15%), cancer monitoring tests delayed (12%), health coverage lost (2%), treatment such as surgery or radiation cancelled (2%), and treatment regimens changed (1%). ASCO said 68% reported no effects on cancer care as a result of COVID-19.

Click here for results of the 2019 ASCO survey.


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