Examining the association among fear of COVID-19, psychological distress, and delays in cancer care

Academic Article


  • Background: Given the high risk of COVID-19 mortality, patients with cancer may be vulnerable to fear of COVID-19, adverse psychological outcomes, and health care delays. Methods: This longitudinal study surveyed the pandemic's impact on patients with cancer (N= 1529) receiving Patient Advocate Foundation services during early and later pandemic. Generalized estimating equation with repeated measures was conducted to assess the effect of COVID-19 on psychological distress. Logistic regression with repeated measures was used to assess the effect of COVID-19 on any delays in accessing health care (e.g., specialty care doctors, laboratory, or diagnostic testing, etc.). Results: Among 1199 respondents, 94% considered themselves high risk for COVID-19. Respondents with more fear of COVID-19 had a higher mean psychological distress score (10.21; 95% confidence intervals [CI] 9.38–11.03) compared to respondents with less fear (7.55; 95% CI 6.75–8.36). Additionally, 47% reported delaying care. Respondents with more fear of COVID-19 had higher percentages of delayed care than those with less (56; 95% CI 39%–72% vs. 44%; 95% CI 28%–61%). These relationships persisted throughout the pandemic. For respondents with a COVID-19 diagnosis in their household (n = 116), distress scores were similar despite higher delays in care (58% vs. 27%) than those without COVID-19. Conclusions: Fear of COVID-19 is linked to psychological distress and delays in care among patients with cancer. Furthermore, those who are personally impacted see exacerbated cancer care delays. Timely psychosocial support and health care coordination are critical to meet increased care needs of patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Published In

  • Cancer Medicine  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Caston NE; Lawhon VM; Smith KL; Gallagher K; Angove R; Anderson E; Balch A; Azuero A; Huang CHS; Rocque GB
  • Start Page

  • 8854
  • End Page

  • 8865
  • Volume

  • 10
  • Issue

  • 24