For patients with cancer, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on both physical and psychological health. The severely disruptive circumstances created by the pandemic have significantly intensified overall health challenges. Clinicians and patients have been forced to reschedule basic oncology appointments, interrupt treatments, and cancel surgeries. Following the outbreak, the protracted consequences may persist, affecting the psychological health of individual patients as well as their communities.
Researchers assessed the coping strategies utilized by women with ovarian cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic by asking women with current or prior ovarian cancer diagnoses to complete an online survey distributed through survivor networks and social media from March 30, 2020, through April 13, 2020. This survey included 65 questions surrounding patients’ cancer histories, cancer-directed treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic, demographics, quality of life, and coping strategies. A total of 555 patients completed the survey, with 408 providing data on coping strategies they used during the pandemic. The median age of respondents was 58 years, and the majority of patients identified as white (92.8%).
One hundred fifty (40.8%) patients were receiving active cancer treatment and approximately one-third (33.9%) reported a delay in some aspect of cancer care. Of the 29 participants who were scheduled for surgical treatment, 27.6% reported a pandemic-related surgical delay. Of the 151 patients who were receiving nonsurgical cancer-directed therapy, 8.6% experienced treatment postponement.
The most commonly reported coping strategies, reported by more than one-third of participants, were emotional support, an array of self-care forms (including exercise, meditation, yoga, and healthy eating), and hobbies. Other strategies reported included planning (21.3%), positive reframing (13.2%), and religion (12.3%). Hobbies reported included reading (14.2%), cooking/baking (5.9%), gardening (4.4%), and spending time outdoors (5.9%). Dysfunctional avoidance coping strategies, specifically self-distraction and using substances (such as alcohol or other drugs) to get through the day, were reported by 27.2% and 4.7% of participants, respectively.
The investigators concluded that during the pandemic, ovarian cancer survivors’ most commonly used coping strategies were adaptive and problem-focused; based on a review of pertinent literature, these tactics were generally considered beneficial for quality of life and well-being. However, a significant portion of patients adopted dysfunctional strategies that were negatively associated with quality of life. The majority of emotional support received by patients was virtual, suggesting that technology has played a key role in adapting novel coping strategies based on the extenuating circumstances created by the pandemic.
Frey MK, Chapman-Davis E, Glynn SM, et al. Adapting and avoiding coping strategies for women with ovarian cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gynecol Oncol. 2021;160:492-498.