Psychosocial well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic among women with and without breast cancer

Psychooncology. 2023 Jul;32(7):1106-1113. doi: 10.1002/pon.6152. Epub 2023 May 22.


Objective: Treatment delays in combination with general social distancing practices to reduce transmission may have negative impacts on the mental health of women with breast cancer who may need more social and emotional support. We sought to elucidate the psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic among women with and without breast cancer in New York City.

Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study among women aged 18+ across the spectrum of breast health care at New York Presbyterian (NYP)-Weill Cornell, NYP-Brooklyn Methodist Hospital and NYP-Queens. Women were contacted between June and October 2021 to assess their self-reported depression, stress, and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. We compared women who were recently diagnosed, those with a history of breast cancer, and women without cancer whose other health visits were delayed during the pandemic.

Results: There were 85 women who completed the survey. Breast cancer survivors (42%) were the least likely to report a delay in care due to COVID compared to breast cancer patients who were recently diagnosed (67%) and women without cancer (67%). Compared to women without cancer and breast cancer survivors, women recently diagnosed with breast cancer reported higher levels of anxiety and depression with a statistically significant difference in perceived stress.

Conclusions: Our findings highlight the need to identify and risk-stratify patients facing a new breast cancer diagnosis in and around the COVID-19 pandemic who may benefit from additional resources to mitigate the adverse impacts of the pandemic and a breast cancer diagnosis on psychosocial health.

Keywords: COVID-19; breast cancer; oncology; psychosocial outcomes; treatment delays.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / therapy
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / psychology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Prospective Studies