Stigmatic Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Head & Neck Cancers Survivors

Indian J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2021 Apr 22;1-5. doi: 10.1007/s12070-021-02545-5. Online ahead of print.


Social stigma is the spoilation of the social image of an individual, which leads to the social disapproval of the individual by the community. Patients of many diseases like HIV, deafness, and reproductive disorders often face social disproval. Head & neck cancer survivors perceived stigma due to the mutilation that occurred after surgical treatment procedures. The novel coronavirus is a recently emerged zoonotic viral agent that affects the respiratory system of humans. Following its outbreak from the Wuhan city of China, the COVID-19 spreaded fiercely around the globe, forming a pandemic. Since COVID-19 is a contagious disease with no available treatment, social distancing is considered as the best strategy to prevent the geometric spread of infection. With the social distancing model, the head & neck cancer survivors along with the various other stakeholders perceived stigma being a high-risk group for COVID-19 infection. As the pool of caregivers is diminished due to pandemic, head & neck cancer survivors face increased social isolation and perceived stigma in asking for help from relatives. At the time of the pandemic, social support is critical to fighting against the disease. Social distancing should be maintained along with communication with the patients through calls, text, and online social platforms. It is not wise to stigmatize disease as, in that case, patients who are infected with the disease will try to hide it and avoid seeking medical care. With the promotion of social distancing, it is crucial to convey awareness regarding not to stigmatize the disease.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cancer; Coronavirus; Lockdown; Quarantine; Stigma.