Quelling COVID-19 and Cancer Fears

CURECURE® Lung Cancer 2021 Special Issue

As part of its “Speaking Out” video series, CURE® spoke with Katie Brown from LUNGevity about challenges that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic — including delays in screening — and resources to help patients through these trying times.

A year after people were told to stay home for two weeks to “flatten the curve,” the COVID-19 pandemic still affects many, especially those with cancer.

Amid reports that many people have delayed important screenings and/or treatment during the pandemic, and with many feeling the psychosocial impact of social isolation, organizations such as LUNGevity are offering a variety of resources to help patients with lung cancer.

As part of its “Speaking Out” video series, CURE® spoke with Katie Brown, vice president of support and survivorship programs at the LUNGevity Foundation, about the challenges patients have experienced throughout the pandemic and ways the organization can help those in need.

CURE®: To start, should there be a concern regarding delayed treatments and disease progression or mortality related to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Katie Brown: I feel like individuals who are at high risk of developing lung cancer are not showing up for their lung cancer screenings. And this will definitely increase the number of patients who will be diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer. Also, I think what concerns us and health care professionals are patients who are canceling or postponing not only their scans and their follow-up scans but also their wellness visits due to COVID-19 fears.

How can we try to address these fears and combat the potential challenges?

I think that information is key. It’s important to convey to patients that hospital systems are taking great care to protect against COVID-19 spread within the hospital. I know that in some hospitals, COVID-19 patients and critically ill persons enter through different parts of the hospital than (patients coming in for) scans and office visits. Hospital staffs are also screening everyone who enters for COVID-19 symptoms and limiting who can go into the hospital. And because we know that early detection saves lives, patients should not skip their treatments or appointments or even their yearly wellness exams.

You mentioned that one challenge is patients skipping their appointments. What are some of the additional hurdles we’ve seen in lung cancer during the pandemic?

You know, all of us are experiencing challenges right now during the pandemic. What I’m seeing universally across all of our communities is the feeling of social and emotional isolation.

What can we do to address that kind of challenge and help others feel less socially isolated?

A huge benefit is the technology that we have today at LUNGevity. We have many online communities for patients to utilize. Last year, when the pandemic began, we pivoted our in-person events to a virtual platform, and we partnered with other organizations to engage within our lung cancer community. We also have a virtual patient and caregiver meetup via Zoom four times a week, and we’re considering doing it daily to meet all the challenges that our patients face.

Are there other resources available that patients can turn to during these trying times?

Yes, absolutely. Patients can use our lung cancer help line for professional psychosocial support, financial support and access to resources. We also have a lung cancer mentor program called LifeLine that patients can sign up for, and that’s where they can request a support mentor. We also have many vibrant online communities and message boards.

To bring it all together, what is your biggest piece of advice for an individual who has lung cancer and is trying to make their way through this pandemic?

My biggest piece of advice would be to let them know that they are not alone. Although we can’t physically be together, there are ways that a patient can plug into our community for social interaction, peer support and advice.

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