- Title: New health crisis looms as non-COVID patients delay care
- Date: 12th July 2020
- Summary: AUSTIN, TEXAS, UNITED STATES (JULY 9, 2020) (REUTERS VIA ZOOM) (SOUNDBITE) (English) HELEN KNOST (PRONOUNCED kuh-NOAST), 49, WHO HAS STAGE ONE BREAST CANCER, SAYING: "So the type of cancer that breast cancer that I have, it can kind of be put on hold with a drug called Tamoxifen. So I was put on Tamoxifen, which they said I could be on for up to a year before having surgery. But it's a very strange thing, having cancer in you and just hanging out with cancer, just knowing that it's there. So I'm glad that I got in when I did. Because right now all the hospitals are shut back down."
- Embargoed: 26th July 2020 23:37
- Keywords: COVID-19 care coronavirus delay hospital routine screening surgery
- Location: OXNARD, CHULA VISTA, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA ; AUSTIN, HOUSTON, TEXAS, UNITED STATES
- City: OXNARD, CHULA VISTA, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA ; AUSTIN, HOUSTON, TEXAS, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA003CMO0J0N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A Texas man who waited until his brain tumor was softball-sized; a California patient who delayed going to the emergency room and had a heart attack and a woman who lost 35 pounds before seeking treatment and whose cancer was much more advanced as a result: the resurgence of COVID-19 is creating another health crisis as hospitals fill and patients are fearful or unable to get non-emergency care.
With U.S. coronavirus infections reaching new heights, doctors and hospitals say they are also seeing sharp declines in patients seeking routine medical care and screenings - and a rise in those who have delayed care for so long they are far sicker than they otherwise would be.
"We're definitely seeing in the emergency room patients who have delayed their care, delayed their treatment or delayed screening. So, for example, the other day there is somebody who had had symptoms a few days prior and didn't want to tell their loved one because they were afraid they were going to make them go to the hospital or call a doctor," said Dr. Lynn Jeffers, chief medical officer at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, California.
After the pandemic was declared a national emergency in March, many states banned non-essential medical procedures, and the number of patients seeking care for other ailments took a nosedive. Hospitals and medical practices were hit hard financially.
Emergency department use dropped by 42% during the first 10 weeks of the pandemic despite a rise in patients presenting with symptoms of the coronavirus, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. In the same period, patients seeking care for heart attacks dropped by 23% and stroke care by 20%.
Austin oncologist Dr. Debra Patt said she expects mortality rates from cancer to skyrocket in the years after the pandemic because patients have delayed their care.
Patt in recent days treated a man who waited to come in for headaches and dizziness until he had lost 35 pounds and had a softball-sized tumor in his head.
She also said screening mammograms are down by 90% in Austin, where she specializes in breast cancer and serves as executive vice president of Texas Oncology. That means some tumors will be missed, and women who develop aggressive cancers might not know about it until the disease is more advanced and more likely to be deadly.
Patt's patient Helen Knost had to put off surgery for breast cancer in early spring because it was considered non-emergency in Texas and barred at the time, and she was treated instead with the medication Tamoxifen.
"It's a very strange thing, having cancer in you and just hanging out with cancer, just knowing that it's there," said Knost, who did ultimately undergo successful surgery and will start radiation treatment in July.
"COVID doesn't know the difference in your heart, doesn't know the difference. And we're encouraging people not to delay their care," said Jeffers.
"COVID isn't going away. And so we are going to have to start living our lives understanding that this is going to be a part of it and how we're all going to adjust," she said.
(Production: Jane Ross, Sandra Stojanovic)
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