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27-11-2020 | COVID-19 | News

Cancer patients report changes in care during pandemic

Author:
Shreeya Nanda

medwireNews: One in three people with cancer experienced changes to their care in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey of the Dutch PROFILES registry participants.

Patients reported that treatments and follow-up appointments were postponed, cancelled, or replaced with telephone or video consultations, say Lonneke van de Poll-Franse (Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation, Utrecht) and colleagues.

“Longitudinal evaluation will reveal whether this has an association with their long-term health outcomes,” they write in JAMA Oncology.

The online questionnaire was completed by just under half (48.6%) of the 8428 PROFILES participants between April and May 2020, and showed that appointments were postponed or cancelled for 10.8% of the 886 individuals receiving or about to initiate treatment and the same proportion of the 2725 receiving follow-up care.

Appointments were changed to a telephone or video consultation for 18.1% and 8.6% of the groups, respectively, with the majority (95.2%) of these 394 patients having a telephone appointment and the remaining 4.8% having a video consultation.

Although nearly three-quarters (74.4%) of the patients voiced a preference for face-to-face appointments, over a third (38.3%) were willing to have a telephone or video consultation again.

The study authors also compared the wellbeing of patients with cancer with that of people without cancer. Responses were received from 67% of the 3509 cancer-free individuals invited to complete the questionnaire, and 977 could be matched by age and sex to the cancer patient group.

A comparable proportion of people with cancer and those without cancer reported that they were less prompt about contacting their general practitioner (20.9 vs 22.3%) or medical specialist/nurse (14.4 vs 14.7%) about physical complaints, concerns, or questions during the pandemic.

Significantly more patients with versus without cancer were “quite a bit/very much” worried about acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection (22.4 vs 17.9%), but there were no significant differences between the groups with regard to global quality of life, pain, or depression.

And although people with cancer had significantly worse scores on other quality of life measures, van de Poll-Franse et al note that “these differences were not clinically relevant.”

They highlight, however, that a significantly smaller proportion of people with cancer than those without cancer reported loneliness (7.0 vs 11.7%).

This finding indicates that “the impact of the crisis may be larger in the norm population than in patients with cancer,” say the authors.

“Restricted social contacts and limited freedom of movement may have less impact on patients with cancer than norm participants, as they often already report decreased social functioning after a cancer diagnosis, which may not have changed much during COVID-19,” they conclude.

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Ltd. © 2020 Springer Healthcare Ltd, part of the Springer Nature Group

27 November 2020: The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all healthcare professionals across the globe. Medicine Matters’ focus, in this difficult time, is the dissemination of the latest data to support you in your research and clinical practice, based on the scientific literature. We will update the information we provide on the site, as the data are published. However, please refer to your own professional and governmental guidelines for the latest guidance in your own country.

JAMA Oncol 2020; doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.6093