The Impact of COVID-19 on Patients With Cancer: A National Study of Patient Experiences

Am J Clin Oncol. 2021 Sep 14. doi: 10.1097/COC.0000000000000865. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic abruptly disrupted cancer care. The impact of these disruptions on patient experiences remain relatively understudied. The objective of this study was to assess patients' perspectives regarding the impact of COVID-19 on their experiences, including their cancer care, emotional and mental health, and social determinants of health, and to evaluate whether these outcomes differed by cancer stage.

Materials and methods: We conducted a survey among adults with cancer across the United States from April 1, 2020 to August 26, 2020 using virtual snowball sampling strategy in collaboration with professional organizations, cancer care providers, and patient advocacy groups. We analyzed data using descriptive statistics, χ2 and t tests.

Results: Three hundred twelve people with cancer participated and represented 38 states. The majority were non-Hispanic White (n=183; 58.7%) and female (n=177; 56.7%) with median age of 57 years. Ninety-one percent spoke English at home, 70.1% had health insurance, and 67% had access to home internet. Breast cancer was the most common diagnosis (n=67; 21.5%). Most had Stage 4 disease (n=80; 25.6%). Forty-six percent (n=145) experienced a change in their care due to COVID-19. Sixty percent (n=187) reported feeling very or extremely concerned that the pandemic would affect their cancer and disproportionately experienced among those with advanced cancer stages compared with earlier stages (P<0.001). Fifty-two percent (n=162) reported impact of COVID-19 on 1 or more aspects of social determinants of health with disproportionate impact among those with advanced cancer stages compared with earlier stages.

Conclusions: COVID-19 impacted the care and well-being of patients with cancer and this impact was more pronounced among people with advanced cancer stages. Future work should consider tailored interventions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on patients with cancer.