COVID-19 Pandemic Stressors and Psychological Symptoms in Breast Cancer Patients

Curr Oncol. 2021 Jan 8;28(1):294-300. doi: 10.3390/curroncol28010034.


Background: The current Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is a highly stressful event that may lead to significant psychological symptoms, particularly in cancer patients who are at a greater risk of contracting viruses. This study examined the frequency of stressors experienced in relation to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its relationship with psychological symptoms (i.e., anxiety, depression, insomnia, fear of cancer recurrence) in breast cancer patients.

Methods: Thirty-six women diagnosed with a non-metastatic breast cancer completed the Insomnia Severity Index, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the severity subscale of the Fear of Cancer Recurrence Inventory, and the COVID-19 Stressors Questionnaire developed by our research team. Participants either completed the questionnaires during (30.6%) or after (69.4%) their chemotherapy treatment.

Results: Results revealed that most of the participants (63.9%) have experienced at least one stressor related to the COVID-19 pandemic (one: 27.8%, two: 22.2%, three: 11.1%). The most frequently reported stressor was increased responsibilities at home (33.3%). Higher levels of concerns related to the experienced stressors were significantly correlated with higher levels of anxiety, depressive symptoms, insomnia, and fear of cancer recurrence, rs(32) = 0.36 to 0.59, all ps < 0.05.

Conclusions: Cancer patients experience a significant number of stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which are associated with increased psychological symptoms. These results contribute to a better understanding of the psychological consequences of a global pandemic in the context of cancer and they highlight the need to better support patients during such a challenging time.

Keywords: COVID-19; anxiety; breast cancer; depression; fear of cancer recurrence; insomnia; pandemic; stressors.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology
  • COVID-19 / psychology
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Cancer Survivors / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / psychology
  • Pandemics*
  • Patient Health Questionnaire / statistics & numerical data
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / diagnosis
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology