COVID-19 has forced human beings around the world to withdraw from the public undertakings of their everyday lives, prioritizing social distancing measures whenever possible. Unfortunately for cancer patients—who rely on treatments, surgeries, and face-to-face visits with their care teams—telemedicine and prescriptions-by-mail aren’t enough in the fight against their disease. With the threat of the virus imminent, they have no choice but to continue their treatments in-person, many with compromised immune systems, entering medical institutions that pose a risk in the COVID-19 era.
In an effort to understand what the last few months have taught us about cancer care in this new landscape and how we can learn from what patients have experienced thus far, our partners at Breastcancer.org hosted a virtual town hall called COVID-19 and Breast Cancer Care, featuring a panel of medical experts and patients, including NBC News Correspondent Kristen Dahlgren who shared her personal breast cancer story.
The webinar began with a video package that gave an immediate overview of the impact that COVID-19 has thus far, echoing a number of key points that Breastcancer.org has featured in its detailed special report: COVID-19’s Impact on Breast Cancer Care. Breast cancer patients have had their surgeries rapidly accelerated, or painstakingly delayed. They’ve had to go into the operating room alone, without the support of a caregiver or family member. Due to the threat of the virus within these hospitals, patients are often discharged immediately and forced to continue their aftercare on the phone or via Zoom.
Featured on the panel of experts were Steven Isakof, M.D. from Massachusetts General Hospital, Elisabeth Potter, M.D. and plastic surgeon specializing in reconstruction, Donna-Marie Manasseh, M.D. and Director of Breast Surgery at Maimonides, and Chirag Shah, M.D. and Director of Clinical Research at the Cleveland Clinic. The discussions were moderated by Breastcancer.org CMO and founder Marisa Weiss, M.D.
Some of the most pressing topics included the impact of chemotherapy drugs on the immune systems of breast cancer patients and how specific drug treatments can put them at greater risk, as well as changes within the medical system as facilities adapt to protect cancer patients who must continue their care in-person. The future of telemedicine was another important talking point, especially for us here at Ciitizen, as we believe giving patients their health records in a digital and easily shareable format will help improve the care they can receive from distance. Second opinions and consultations may be possible virtually, eliminating at least some of the risks associated with a physical hospital visit.
At Ciitizen, we’re proud to be partnering with forward-thinking organizations like Breastcancer.org and are working diligently to provide cancer patients with better options for care. For an overview of the challenges that patients are currently facing during the pandemic, as well as some of the steps the healthcare industry is taking to adapt, visit the Breastcancer.org site here.