Patient-reported experiences of cancer care related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Switzerland

Support Care Cancer. 2023 Jun 22;31(7):410. doi: 10.1007/s00520-023-07871-8.


Purpose: This study aims to describe the experience of Swiss oncological patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: A national multi-center study including five hospitals covering the three main language regions of Switzerland was conducted between March and July 2021. Patients with melanoma, breast, lung, or colon cancer receiving active systemic anti-cancer treatment at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic were included. We conducted semi-structured telephone or onsite interviews alongside the administration of distress and resilience-validated questionnaires. Thematic analysis was performed for the qualitative data and descriptive statistics for the quantitative data.

Results: Sixty-two cancer patients with a mean age of 61 (SD=14) (58% female) were interviewed. Based on the interviews, we identified that the experience of having cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic was related to five dimensions: psychological, social, support, healthcare, and vaccination. Three themes transverse the five dimensions: (a) needs, (b) positive changes, and (c) phases of the pandemic. In general, patients did not experience delays or disruptions in their cancer treatment nor felt additionally burdened by the pandemic. Lockdown and isolation were reported as mixed experiences (positive and negative), and access to vaccination reassured patients against the risk of infection and instilled hope to return to normalcy. Additionally, we found low distress levels (M=2.9; SD=2.5) and high resilience scores (M=7; SD=1.3) in these patients.

Conclusion: Swiss patients with cancer did not express major needs or disruptions in their care during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results identify the mixed experiences of patients and highlight the high resilience levels.

Keywords: COVID-19; Distress; Oncology; Patient-reported experience; Resilience.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Pandemics
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Switzerland / epidemiology