Purpose: To examine how treatment delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the physical and emotional well-being of physicians treating these patients.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey of physician breast specialists was posted from April 23rd to June 11th, 2020 on membership list serves and social media platforms of the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and the American Society of Breast Surgeons. Physician well-being was measured using 6 COVID-19 burnout emotions and the 4-item PROMIS short form for anxiety and sleep disturbance. We examined associations between treatment delays and physician well-being, adjusting for demographic factors, COVID-19 testing and ten COVID-19 pandemic concerns.
Results: 870 physicians completed the survey, 61% were surgeons. The mean age of physicians was 52 and 548 (63.9%) were female. 669 (79.4%) reported some delay in patient care as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 384 (44.1%) and 529 (60.8%) of physicians scored outside normal limits for anxiety and sleep disturbance, respectively. After adjusting for demographic factors and COVID-19 testing, mean anxiety and COVID-19 burnout scores were significantly higher among physicians whose patients experienced either delays in surgery, adjuvant chemotherapy, radiation, breast imaging or specialty consultation. A multivariable model adjusting for ten physician COVID-19 concerns and delays showed that "delays will impact my emotional well-being" was the strongest concern associated with anxiety, sleep disturbance and COVID-19 burnout factors.
Conclusions: Breast cancer treatment delays during the initial surge of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States were associated with a negative impact on physician emotional wellness.
Keywords: Breast cancer delays; COVID-19 treatment delays; Physician well being.