What to Know About Telehealth for Gastric Cancer

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Telehealth—a way to receive healthcare services remotely through various communication technologies—allows for the delivery of care without in-person interactions.

There are many times telehealth visits are appropriate, including visits for gastric cancer

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Telehealth and COVID-19

With the spread of COVID-19telehealth has become an attractive alternative to in-person healthcare appointments. While healthcare offices and clinics are taking measures to keep staff and patients safe, refraining from going to public places—unless necessary—is a good practice during a pandemic.

When to Use Telehealth for Gastric Cancer

Telehealth visits for gastric cancer can be a convenient option for a visit with your cancer team. These appointments may be with various members of the team, including an oncologist, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. These types of visits may be for:

  • Discussion of treatment options
  • Treatment education visits
  • Symptom management
  • Follow-up between treatments
  • Follow-up after a treatment has ended
  • Visits with specialists, such as genetic counselors or dieticians
  • Survivorship visits 

You May Need to Be Seen In Person If:

Telehealth is not the best option for every visit though. Because a full physical exam is not possible during a telehealth visit, there are times in-person visits may be required. For example:

When needing any type of treatment such as:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy

When needing any type of testing, including:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging (CT, MRI, x-ray, ultrasound, PET scan)
  • Upper endoscopy
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Biopsy

If experiencing new or worsening symptoms, or if any symptom is severe. These symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Bloody, dark, or tarry stool
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)

Benefits and Challenges

There can be many benefits for telehealth visits, including:

  • Decreased travel. Some patients may live far away from their cancer center. Telehealth visits can allow for continued care from the oncology team without the cost of transportation.
  • Accessibility. Sometimes people experience difficulty physically getting into a car or walking long distances into the provider’s office. Telehealth visits offer an option for care that can be accessed without leaving the house. 
  • Time savings. With no time spent traveling or sitting in a waiting room, it can be much more convenient to wait in the comfort of home for a visit to start.  
  • Decreased infection risk. Visits from home reduce the risk of developing an infection from exposure to another patient who may have an illness. This may be very important for someone with decreased immune system function from their cancer treatment.
  • Cost. Some insurance companies offer reduced copays for telehealth visits. Transportation costs are also saved, and people can save money by not having to take off from work to attend a visit. 

Although there are many benefits, there can be some challenges to telehealth as well. 

  • Access issues: Having a cell phone or computer with a camera and internet access is required for a visit with audio and video. Not all people will have the equipment necessary for a successful telehealth visit. Knowing how to use the required technology may be difficult for some people as well.
  • Technical issues: There may be times where calls are dropped or a patient or provider has problems using technology due to an outage of service or some other technical problem. These can prevent or limit the ability to perform an adequate visit. 
  • Limited physical exam: Sometimes an oncology provider will need to listen to a body system or physically observe an area that can’t be seen through a telehealth visit. This may lead to the potential of missing an important finding. 

How to Prepare for a Telehealth Visit for Gastric Cancer

Ask your gastric cancer provider if a telehealth visit option may be available for you. Once a telehealth visit is scheduled, there should be a few things you can do to prepare. 

Things to do before the visit include:

  • Making sure the device used for the visit, such as a phone, tablet, or computer, is powered on and is fully charged or plugged into a power source
  • Ensure connection to internet or wireless phone service
  • Have the phone number for the provider to call back in case of disconnection
  • Test your device to make sure it’s working well
  • Find a quiet, well-lit place to sit for the visit
  • Bring a list of questions or concerns to discuss with the provider
  • Have a family member or friend sit with you, if desired, to have another person listen and ask questions you may not have thought of

Will Insurance Cover Telehealth for Gastric Cancer?

Telehealth services are not free.

  • Insurance coverage of telehealth visits varies based on the state and federal guidelines, and the insurance company.
  • It is best to check with your insurance company prior to setting up a telehealth visit to ensure coverage. 
  • If uninsured, check with the provider’s office for payment information and to see if telehealth is an option for a visit

What Happens During a Visit

Prior to your telehealth visit, you will likely receive instructions from your provider’s office, which include a link to visit their platform and any instructions to know before you start. Information on security and privacy practices should also be provided. 

To start a telehealth visit, use the link provided by your provider’s office. 

The visit may be very similar in some ways to an in-patient visit. 

  • The provider may ask for vital signs if you’re able to provide them, such as recent weight, blood pressure, or heart rate.
  • The reason for your visit will be discussed (symptom management, follow-up, etc.)
  • If the provider needs to see a particular part of your body, this will be requested.
  • Discuss any questions that you have.
  • Confirm any new prescriptions or recommendations, and schedule the next follow-up. 

Telehealth Services Should Not Replace In-Person Care

Telehealth visits may be a great option for some of your gastric cancer care but will not be able to replace all of your care. Please contact your cancer care team with any concerns or to find out what precautions are being taken to keep you safe.

A Word From Verywell

Telehealth visits may be a convenient option for someone with gastric cancer. Educational visits, symptom management, survivorship visits, or any visit that doesn’t require a detailed physical exam may be a good option for telehealth.

If you have a medical emergency or worsening symptoms, however, it is best to be seen in person. Check with your gastric cancer team to see if a telehealth visit is appropriate for you. 

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Article Sources
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  1. Community Oncology Alliance. Survivorship visits: COA telehealth in cancer care position statement. Updated September 24, 2020.

  2. American Cancer Society. Treating gastric cancer.

  3. American Cancer Society. Early detection, diagnosis, and staging.

  4. National Institute on Aging. Telehealth: what is it, how to prepare, is it covered?