Survivors & Treatment During COVID-19
- A new study shows that one-third of cancer survivors were worried about cancer care disruptions, as well as worried about their treatments, at the beginning of the pandemic.
- Protecting yourself from COVID-19 while battling cancer (or previously battling cancer) is important, because some cancer treatments lead to an immunocompromised state.
- Tools such as therapy and support groups can help mitigate stress for survivors and those fighting cancer.
A new study published in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology found a third of cancer survivors worried about cancer care disruptions and their treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic.Read More
Investigators also looked at survivors’ concerns around infection and finances during the pandemic. The pandemic has led to widespread job loss and many people are struggling financially. Cancer care is costly, and without a job or health insurance, a cancer diagnosis can bring much hardship.
“This study demonstrates the importance of clear communication between healthcare providers and patients experiencing concerns and uncertainties that may affect mental health during the pandemic as the care provision landscape continues to change,” said Dr. Corinne Leach, an investigator on the study.
The study found that many survivors had disruptions in their treatment, 77% were worried about ICU admission or death by COVID-19, and 27% were concerned that the pandemic would make it difficult to afford cancer care.
The report highlighted something we’re all feeling right now, too: “Many respondents described social isolation, including overall loneliness and feelings of being isolated due to social distancing, during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The study also showed that many survivors struggled with being unable to bring someone with them to the hospital while receiving cancer treatment.
Battling Cancer Through COVID-19
Battling cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic is doubly stressful. As scary as it feels at times, there are things you can do to protect yourself while going to the hospital for treatment.
For people fighting cancer, or those who recently battled cancer, it’s important to follow CDC-recommended COVID safety guidelines, such as keeping social distance, washing your hands, and covering your face, to protect yourself.
Some cancer treatments, like chemotherapy, can cause a person to be immunocompromised. This means that they may be more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus. Exercise caution when getting treatment.
Managing Stress As a Cancer Patient During COVID-19
For survivors and those getting treatment, there are endless opportunities for stress during the pandemic. However, there are tools that can help to mitigate some of that stress, such as support groups for cancer patients and speaking with a trained therapist or oncological social worker.
Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, says in an earlier interview, “I think what so many mental health professionals are worried about is already the PTSD from having a diagnosis of cancer, but when you incorporate all the anxiety that goes along with a global pandemic, that is almost a volcano that is just so much for any cancer patient to bear.”
“And we don’t know that stress necessarily worsens somebody’s outcome simply by saying that they were stressed,” she says. “But if stress causes patients to be less compliant with their medications, to be fearful of leaving their home, to eat worse, or to exercise less, those are ways that stress can start to really creep into those factors that we know really do affect the outcome.”
Dr. Comen advises people to seek support. “There are many, many resources available to them. So at their hospital, they may have social workers that are able to just do telemedicine in their home, and communicate with them, and video chat with them. There are also lots of support groups that are online, that are doing meet-ups, like Zoom meet-ups, to connect, so with actual patients themselves,” she says.
“And I just would really want patients to not feel like they can’t seek the mental health support that everybody needs during this time but particularly cancer patients,” Dr. Comen says.