WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. — Becky Drexler had her last chemotherapy treatment in January of 2019. The ovarian cancer survivor from White Bear Lake has been doing well since.
"I had my official one year follow-up with the doctor this past January and everything has looked good," she said. "I still go in every three months to see her."
But amid the pandemic, Drexler has had changes to her follow-up care. She still has a port in her body, which was used to administer chemotherapy. She usually goes in every four to six weeks to get it "flushed" or cleaned, so it doesn't clot.
"I was scheduled to have [an appointment to get it flushed] on April 14, but I got a call probably about ten days ago from the clinic that they were cancelling that one," she said.
Drexler said the clinic told her studies have shown patients can safely go without a port flush for as long as three months, but she says she is still uneasy.
"It makes me nervous, because I have known women that have had them clot," she said.
Drexler isn't the only cancer patient experiencing changes in care, as hospitals and clinics work to limit the number of patients physically present for appointments.
Kathleen Gavin is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance, or MOCA. Gavin works with both patients and providers and says she knows of ovarian cancer patients in Minnesota who have had surgeries delayed.
"There has been an alternative to give chemotherapy first, and then followed by surgery, rather than surgery right up front," she said. "But what's happening now is women who are done with their 'up front' chemo, they're now ready for their surgery and they're being asked to wait."
Gavin says it's up to each hospital to decide which procedures get postponed.
She's a member of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, which created guidelines for oncologists to triage patients.
"They have different tiers depending on the severity of the cancer and the health status of the patient," Gavin said.
Drexler has a follow-up appointment with her physician scheduled for May 14. She is hopeful she'll be able to go in person.
"It's usually like two weeks before my follow up appointment with the doctor my anxiety typically goes up," she said. "It might be higher this time, just because there is that chance that I won't be able to see her in person."
MOCA is holding virtual support groups for ovarian cancer survivors and patients. They're also giving them free cloth masks. You can find more information here.
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