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Telemedicine for At-Risk Women with Breast Cancer

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Published on August 17, 2020

Can At-Risk Women Get In-Person Treatment During COVID-19 Outbreak?

Many women are at-risk for delaying important breast cancer treatment due to various reasons. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these barriers to accessing cancer care can be even larger. Patient Power host, Megan-Claire Chase sit down with Shonte Drakeford, patient advocate and a representative from the Tigerlily Foundation, and experts Dr. Shaveta Vinayak, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Dr. Catherine Park, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Dr. Freya Schnabel, NYU Langone Health to discuss strategies for breast cancer patients to access care when telehealth visits are not possible. They discuss the availability of cancer centers, how patients can access doctors by telephone and accessing interpreter services.

This is Part 2 of our Breast Cancer Answers Now Live Program. Watch the other parts below:

This program is supported by an educational grant from Daiichi Sankyo. This organization has no editorial control. It is produced by Patient Power and Patient Power is solely responsible for program content.

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NYU Langone's Perlmutter Cancer Center

Transcript | Telemedicine for At-Risk Women with Breast Cancer

Does telemedicine work for everyone?

Shonte’ Drakeford:
I wanted to address the telemedicine question. Everyone's utilizing it and it's been helpful in some cases — in most cases. I work with underserved communities and a lot of times they don't have access to cellular devices or to laptops or even have the bandwidth or data that utilize these services, and it's already been, especially in the African American community, we’re already at a higher risk, like 40% of dying and getting advanced-stage cancers. So the screening and diagnostic have probably I'm sure significantly increased, like how are we bridging that gap to those who live in rural areas, urban areas who don't have the access to telemedicine or anything like that?

Dr. Schnabel:
I think that that's really an excellent point and I'm glad that brought it up because while this is a great new tool, it's not going to work for everyone and in every situation. And again, I tell this to my patients, we were open throughout, our cancer center was never not open. And people came in and were seen and we were there in the offices throughout all the time, so that patients who really were not able, or for whom it was inappropriate to use telehealth were able to come in and have in-person visits. But that is a very good point about the limitations of this technology.

Dr. Park:
Yeah, absolutely. And we still offer telephone visits for people who do not want to come in for one reason or another. We don't mandate that it has to be a video visit. So, we allow telephone visits and do outreach with social work when needed. We have a neat program, I think, through San Francisco General, where there are patient navigators for patients who have language issues or who may find it difficult to access healthcare and they come and they help take notes. And they're on the Zoom if they need to be. So while it's far short from where we need to be, I feel at least there are some glimmers of hope here and there that we're addressing some of the problem.

Dr. Vinayak:
I also encourage having a family member or a friend or someone on the phone especially if it's going to be a telehealth visit and having them be there alongside. Just to have an extra pair of ears listen to that information. 


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