Evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on supportive care needs, psychological distress and quality of life in UK cancer survivors and their support network

Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2021 Sep;30(5):e13442. doi: 10.1111/ecc.13442. Epub 2021 Mar 25.


Objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic is having considerable impact on cancer care, including restricted access to hospital-based care, treatment and psychosocial support. We investigated the impact on unmet needs and psychosocial well-being.

Methods: One hundred and forty four participants (77% female), including people with cancer and their support networks, were recruited. The most prevalent diagnosis was breast cancer. Forty-one participants recruited pre-pandemic were compared with 103 participants recruited during the COVID-19 pandemic. We measured participants' unmet supportive care needs, psychological distress and quality of life.

Results: Half of our patient respondents reported unexpected changes to treatment following pandemic onset, with widespread confusion about their longer-term consequences. Although overall need levels have not increased, specific needs have changed in prominence. People with cancer reported significantly reduced anxiety (p = 0.049) and improved quality of life (p = 0.032) following pandemic onset, but support network participants reported reduced quality of life (p = 0.009), and non-significantly elevated anxiety, stress and depression.

Conclusion: Psychological well-being of people with cancer has not been detrimentally affected by pandemic onset. Reliance on home-based support to compensate for the lost availability of structured healthcare pathways may, however, explain significant and detrimental effects on the well-being and quality of life of people in their support and informal care networks.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-Cov-2; cancer; distress; oncology; psychosocial; quality of life; unmet needs.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / therapy
  • COVID-19*
  • Cancer Survivors*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics
  • Psychological Distress*
  • Quality of Life
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom