A new study shows that early into the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer survivors had many concerns about delays in their care, risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and whether the pandemic would impact prognosis. These study results were recently published in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology.
The study was based on surveys completed by 972 adult cancer survivors between March 25 and April 8, 2020. Survey questions centered on worries associated with treatment, infection, and finances related to the pandemic.
Outcomes related to health and healthcare worries were linked to several characteristics of survivors, such as marital status, education, age, race or ethnicity, type of cancer, and the time since last treatment.
A longer time since last treatment was linked to less worry around treatment delays. Fear of treatment disruption was lower for female survivors of breast cancer than it was for female survivors of other cancers or male survivors. Treatment worry was not linked to age, education, marital status, or race/ethnicity. However, financial worries tended to be lower for patients who were non-Hispanic white, married, more educated, or older. Worry about the impact of infection was lower with a longer time since last treatment and higher for female survivors of non-breast cancers.
Multiple areas of concern identified were associated with obtaining care during the pandemic, especially regarding access to necessary care and safety of care. Some specific concerns were related to in-person appointments, rationing of care for COVID-19, susceptibility to infection, whether any care delays would lead to recurrence, and issues of social support during the pandemic.
“This study demonstrates the importance of clear communication between healthcare providers and patients experiencing serious issues that may affect mental health, and the need for providers to support patients in navigating other specialist care that is essential during the pandemic as the care provision landscape continues to change,” the study researchers wrote in their report.
Leach CR, Kirkland EG, Masters M, et al. Cancer survivor worries about treatment disruption and detrimental health outcomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. J Psychosoc Oncol. Published online February 24, 2021. doi:10.1080/07347332.2021.1888184