Treating Cancer from a Distance

By Steve Blanchard - March 25, 2020

For many patients at Moffitt Cancer Center, a visit for treatment can involve a long car ride or a plane trip for those who live out of state or internationally. In normal times, the journey can be quite tiring. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, those patients may be facing even tougher challenges.

Martha Sanz, manager of Moffitt’s international referral services, has been working with her team to communicate up-to-date information to patients who are uncertain about their appointments or their ability to travel.  

The office is the first point of contact for international patients, and Sanz’s team is busy explaining the new procedures brought on by the pandemic.

“Since new screening at entrances is in place, we are informing our patients what to expect when they come to Moffitt,” she said.  “If they are a new patient, they will be welcomed at the lobby once they pass the initial screening and escorted to the business office or clinic registration as we normally do.”

At the moment, about 80 international patients are scheduled for appointments at Moffitt in the next three weeks. The team is contacting each patient to discuss travel plans, rescheduling or cancelling appointments, and addressing other questions or concerns.

Because of travel bans, patients from China, Iran, most of Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland are not able to make the trip to Moffitt. Some, however, were in Florida before the bans were enacted and are still undergoing treatment.

Patients traveling from countries not under the U.S. travel ban still plan to come to Moffitt for treatment, Sanz said. But some may learn that their own countries have imposed travel bans.

“Working around this has been challenging because all of the information is not always that accessible,” she said.

For patients with limited travel options, Sanz said her team offers a remote “second opinions” program. Patients can obtain their records, pathology and imaging review with a formal opinion and recommendation from Moffitt experts to get their cases started elsewhere until they can travel again. Patients can start the online process here.

The best thing patients can do, Sanz said, is to be informed and stay aware of the global crisis.

“Safety is on top of their minds as it is in ours and we have been relieved to see how many patients have made the decision to stay put and not travel at this time,” she said. “Some others have traveled ahead since their case could not wait. The situation changes on a day-to-day basis and our patients know our team is here to assist.”

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