Risk factors for heightened COVID-19-Related anxiety among breast cancer patients

Yash B. Shah, Stephanie Kjelstrom, Diana Martinez, Adam Leitenberger, Donna Marie Manasseh, Melissa Bollmann-Jenkins, Ann Partridge, Virginia Kaklamani, Rowen Chlebowski, Sharon Larson, Marisa Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted medical care, increased isolation, and exacerbated anxiety in breast cancer patients. Since March 2020, Breastcancer.org experienced a sustained surge in requested pandemic-related information and support. To characterize the pandemic-related experiences of breast cancer patients, we surveyed the Breastcancer.org Community early in the COVID-19 era. Methods: Breastcancer.org Community members were invited to complete an online questionnaire regarding their experience during the pandemic. Self-reported data on demographics, comorbidities, care disruptions, anxiety, coping ability, telemedicine use, and satisfaction with care were collected. Results were analyzed using Stata 16.0 (Stata Corp., Inc). Results: Included were 568 current and previous breast cancer patients, primarily with U.S. residence. Overall, 43.8% reported at least one comorbidity associated with severe COVID-19 illness and 61.9% experienced care delays. Moderate to extreme anxiety about contracting COVID-19 was reported by 36.5%, increasing with number of comorbidities (33.0% vs. 55.4%, p = 0.021), current breast cancer diagnosis (30.4% vs. 42.5%, p = 0.011), and poorer coping ability (15.5% vs. 53.9%, p < 0.0001). Moderate to extreme anxiety about cancer care disruptions was reported by 29.1%, increasing with current breast cancer diagnosis (19.1% vs. 38.9%, p < 0.0001), actual delayed care (18.9% vs. 35.3%, p < 0.0001), and poorer coping ability (13.1% vs. 57.7%, p < 0.0001). Most utilized telehealth and found it helpful, but also expressed increased anxiety and subjectively expressed that these were less preferable. Conclusion: Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety was reported by a large proportion of breast cancer patients, with increased prevalence in those with risk factors. Attention to mental health is critical, as emotional distress not only harms quality of life but may also compromise outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3577-3588
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • COVID-19
  • anxiety
  • breast cancer
  • mental health
  • patient-reported experiences
  • screening
  • social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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