Social, Financial, and Health Concerns of Cancer Survivors During the Pandemic

A study published in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology evaluated worries about treatment and care disruptions faced by cancer survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During March and April 2020, the investigators conducted a survey of 972 cancer survivors who were part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s Survivor Views Panel. Participants were asked to describe their experiences and worries regarding treatment access, infection risk, and financial challenges during the onset of the global pandemic. The majority of participants were female (72%) and non-Hispanic white (86%). Around 42% of participants had a breast cancer diagnosis. Half of patients were within one year of treatment.

More than three-quarters of survey participants reported concern that they were high risk for severe complications, such as intensive care admission or death, if infected with COVID-19. Twenty-seven percent were worried that the pandemic would make it difficult to afford their cancer treatment.

Themes of social isolation and loneliness were common among the responses, and many respondents expressed concern regarding the inability to bring companions to in-person health care appointments.

“This study demonstrates the importance of clear communication between healthcare providers and patients experiencing concerns and uncertainties that may affect mental health during the pandemic as the care provision landscape continues to change,” lead investigator Corinne Leach, MPH, PhD, of the American Cancer Society, said in a press release.

“The delays and cancellations noted by cancer survivors in the survey highlight the need for policy interventions and new delivery models that make it safe for cancer patients to receive care, and the need for public policies that address the financial worries associated with the pandemic,” the authors wrote in conclusion.