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27-08-2021 | COVID-19 | News

PTSD not uncommon in cancer patients during COVID-19 pandemic

Author: Shreeya Nanda


medwireNews: Around a fifth of people with cancer included in the French COVIPACT study reported symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the first national lockdown in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, find the investigators.

Women were significantly more likely to have PTSD, as were individuals who experienced an adjustment in their medical oncology treatment during the pandemic, with respective odds ratios of 2.10 and 1.65 after adjustment for confounders in a multivariate analysis.

“More attention should be paid to the psychological needs of patients with cancer to prevent or detect and manage PTSD symptoms in this vulnerable population,” write Florence Joly (Centre François Baclesse, Caen) and fellow authors in Cancer.

The study included 734 patients aged an average of 62 years who were receiving oncologic treatment at one of two French outpatient centers during the first lockdown from March 17 to May 29, 2020. The most common tumor type was breast cancer, in 41%.

Just over a quarter (27%) of the cohort experienced a change to their treatment, including adjournments (29%), modified treatment plans (27%), adapted monitoring (27%), and treatment interruptions (16%).

And of the 563 participants who completed the Impact of Event Scale-Revised questionnaire, which “assesses subjective distress caused by traumatic events,” 21% were considered to have PTSD based on a score of 33 points or higher, report Joly et al.

They stress that “PTSD symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic should be interpreted with caution in patients with cancer because cancer diagnosis and treatment are traumatic experiences in themselves,” but add that “it is unlikely that we captured PTSD symptoms related to cancer only or the pandemic only.”

The authors continue: “[R]ather, we identified an exacerbation of cancer-related stress symptoms linked to lockdown-induced constraints that led to adjustments in practice and lack of social support."

Joly and colleagues therefore conclude: “We recommend rapidly implementing psychosocial support for treated patients with cancer to promote emotional resilience and to avoid the onset of PTSD symptoms.

“In parallel, psychological support should be proposed to patients who have already developed PTSD during this long pandemic with its successive lockdowns.”

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Ltd. © 2021 Springer Healthcare Ltd, part of the Springer Nature Group

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Cancer 2021; doi:10.1002/cncr.33856