Fears emerge over limited access to cancer testing, treatment

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Cancer lobby groups fear that limited access to diagnostic testing‎ and treatment due to the COVID-19 pandemic could see an increase in cases and complications. They say hospital resources are dedicated to COVID-19 care, something which could have serious consequences for many who require lifesaving treatment.

For cancer patients, early detection means the difference between life and death. It is also critical for successful treatment results.

In the video below, project manager for Access to Medicine Cancer Alliance Salome Meyer talks about the plight of cancer patients during COVID-19. 

Gladys Errens (50) was scheduled to start her chemotherapy in March. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in December and had a mastectomy.

Errens says she also has financial worries as she receives a disability grant, but wasn’t able to get her payout.

“I couldn’t go to the breast clinic for chemotherapy as I didn’t want to be turned away from SASSA regarding my grant. I am very worried as I was meant to start my first regimen of chemotherapy. My other date is next Thursday and I don’t know how I am going to get out to the hospital.”

Errens is one of hundreds of patients whose treatment has been interrupted. The Pink Drive’s Noelene Kotschan says they are contacted daily by women with referral letters for mammograms.

“We are contacted on a daily basis by women who have referral letters to have a mammogram and they can’t access it in the public health facility…We all know that early diagnosis can prolong a life. It’s just going to push them into another stage by the time the lockdown is lifted and that is tragic for cancer patients.”

Campaigning for Cancer’s Lauren Pretorious says the delay of treatment has a huge implication.

“We have also had patients their treatment has been delayed because of the lockdown. This has a huge implication when it comes to the outcomes of a patient’s treatment. Our biggest worry is what happens after the lockdown. At the moment, our health system is focusing solely on the COVID-19 crisis, but the cancer patients were not cured the day the first person was diagnosed with COVID-19.”

Private clinics have also downscaled and will be operational at lockdown Level 2 or Level 3. They are prioritising urgent cases only.

In the video below, cancer patients say that they are struggling to get treatment due to COVID-19. 


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