The cancer patient’s perspective of COVID‐19‐induced distress

The cancer patient’s perspective of COVID‐19‐induced distress—A cross‐sectional study and a longitudinal comparison of HRQOL assessed before and during the pandemic

Background To permit timely mitigation of adverse effects on overall clinical outcome, it is essential to understand how the pandemic influences distress and health‐related quality of life (HRQOL) in cancer patients during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic.

Methods In this cross‐sectional study, adult cancer patients, without COVID‐19 symptoms, completed a 13‐item questionnaire about the pandemic's impacts on distress and everyday‐life; associations with age, sex, or impaired HRQOL were then assessed by binary logistic regressions. In a subsample of patients with HRQOL assessment available from both before and during the pandemic, we evaluated the pandemic's impact on longitudinal changes in HRQOL reported within 6 months before versus during the COVID‐19 lockdown using McNemar's test, and thresholds for clinical importance.

Results We consecutively enrolled 240 patients with solid (50%) or hematological (50%) cancers. Median age was 67 years, 46% were females. The majority ranked heeding their health (80%) and keeping their appointment schedule in hospital (78%) as important. Being younger than 60, or aged 60–70 was independently associated with limitations in everyday life (OR = 3.57, p < 0.001; and 2.05, p = 0.038); female individuals and those with restricted emotional functioning were more distressed by the COVID‐19 situation (OR = 2.47, p = 0.040; and 3.17, p = 0.019); the latter group was also significantly more concerned about being a patient at risk (OR = 2.21, p = 0.029). Interestingly, in a subsample of patients (n = 47), longitudinal comparisons pre‐ versus during the pandemic revealed that HRQOL was not substantially affected by the pandemic.

Conclusion Particularly younger and female cancer patients, and those with impaired emotional functioning are distressed by COVID‐19. During the first COVID‐19 lockdown, cancer patients remained predominantly resilient. This analysis highlights the need to mitigate distress situations in vulnerable patients and thereby enhance resilience during pandemics.

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