The impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients in the UK


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Charlotte Ide1, Lars Murdock, Ewa Zotov
1Cancer Research UK

Abstract

Background

Cancer is the leading cause of death in the UK, and cancer doesn’t just stop because of a pandemic. In June 2020 Cancer Research UK (CRUK) estimated that over 2 million people were waiting for cancer screening, testing and treatment. In addition, many cancer patients were asked to shield, causing significant disruption to daily life. In response, CRUK conducted a survey to understand the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients’ testing, treatment and care, day-to-day lives and well-being, and support for government policies

Method

Data was collected via an online survey from 1st to 28th May 2020. Opportunistic and snow ball sampling methods were used to recruit 1,842 cancer patients. The sample was weighted to be representative of the UK by geography, social status and gender. Descriptive findings were generated, and where statistical testing was conducted, Fisher’s Exact Test or Chi square analysis tested for differences by socioeconomic status, nation, region and cancer type

Results

The pandemic had a significant negative impact on many cancer patients’ testing, treatment and most notably their care with 2 in 3 cancer patients reporting this had been impacted. This affected emotional well-being with people reporting feeling ‘anxious’ and ‘frustrated’. Cancer patients were particularly concerned about ‘catching COVID-19’ and ‘becoming seriously ill from COVID-19’. Ratings of overall cancer care as “very good” decreased from 75% ‘before lockdown started’ to 37% ‘after lockdown started’. Cancer patients supported government actions which would allow testing and treatment to continue safely during the pandemic, including a safe environment for cancer patients to be treated (88%), ensuring NHS staff have access to adequate PPE (86%) and regular testing for NHS staff regardless of symptoms (84%)

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on the testing, treatment and care of cancer patients. This has negatively impacted perceptions of the quality of care and emotional well-beingCancer patients supported government initiatives which would safely restore cancer services and endorsed multiple actions relating to infection control

Impact statement

These findings quantify the impact of COVID-19 on UK cancer patients to help better anticipate and mitigate the effect of any future local or nationwide lockdown