Covid-19 lockdown leaves cancer patients isolated and frustrated

Covid-19 lockdown leaves cancer patients isolated and frustratedCancer patients and their families need support (Stock image/Cansa)

Cansa launches telephonic counselling for patients left frustrated by the Covid-19 pandemic, affecting their treatment and support. Cancer patients are physically and emotionally vulnerable to effects of lockdown.

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Since the start of the lockdown due to Covid-19, Ntsako Manganyi, has struggled to access her cancer treatment. The 32-year-old battling breast cancer travels from Bungeni village, outside Thohoyandou to Kalafong hospital in Pretoria. When public transport was prohibited from crossing provincial borders, she had to use a costly alternative to reach Gauteng from Limpopo. Her hospital appointment letter served as a permit, allowing her to travel during lockdown.

“Though I am getting better each day, life has been difficult for me during the past few months, especially with all this travelling from Limpopo to Gauteng for treatment and check-ups,” says Manganyi.

The mother of two was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 at Elim hospital, Limpopo, but had to start her treatment in Pretoria where she worked. Since the lockdown was imposed in March, Manganyi has tried several times to change her treatment center to Limpopo, where she returned after quitting her job. Doctors at Kalafong warned her against disrupting her treatment, also pointing to the shortage of oncologists in Limpopo.

Situation worsened by lack of oncologists

The province has only two public hospital oncologists, both of whom are based at Mankweng provincial hospital in

Covid-19 lockdown affects cancer treatment
Ntsako Manganyi is battling breast cancer during lockdwon.

Polokwane. Patients from around the province wait weeks for an appointment. Attempts to get comments from the Limpopo provincial department of health failed.

At the start of the countrywide lockdown, oncologists saw less patients as public transport was limited, according to the Limpopo branch of the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa). Meanwhile, those who were able to receive care and the necessary surgery, could not be supported by loved ones because hospitals did not allow visits due to fears of the coronavirus.

Cancer patients need support

Across the country, cancer survivors are frustrated and vulnerable, says Gerda Strauss, Cansa’s Head of Service Delivery. As the association marks Care Week from 1 to 7 August, Cansa has launched a telephonic counselling service for cancer patients, caregivers, families, parents and guardians of children living with cancer offered in seven languages.

“Patients are feeling frustrated and despondent as they struggle to access vital support services. A cancer patient’s low immunity and high infection risk for COVID-19, results in anxiety and social distancing and hygiene measures add to a feeling of isolation even as lockdown levels are eased” says Strauss.

Noncommunicable diseases should not be neglected during the Covid-19 pandemic

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), prevention and treatment services for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer have been severely disrupted since the Covid-19 pandemic began. A WHO survey in 155 countries during a 3-week period in May, shows that the impact is global, but that low-income countries are affected.

“It’s vital that countries find innovative ways to ensure that essential services for noncommunicable diseases continues, even as they fight Covid-19”, says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

Cansa Tele Counselling can be accessed via the CANSA Help Desk on 0800 22 66 22 toll-free to make an appointment with a Cansa counsellor. Or send an email to [email protected] – Health-e News