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Identifying predictors of COVID-related delays in cancer-specific medical care.

Cancer Medicine 2024 April
PURPOSE: Evidence of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer prevention and control is growing, but little is known about patient-level factors associated with delayed care. We analyzed data from a survey focused on Iowan cancer patients' COVID-19 experiences in the early part of the pandemic.

METHODS: Participants were recruited from the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center's Patients Enhancing Research Collaborations at Holden (PERCH) program. We surveyed respondents on demographic characteristics, COVID-19 experiences and reactions, and delays in any cancer-related health care appointment, or cancer-related treatment appointments. Two-sided significance tests assessed differences in COVID-19 experiences and reactions between those who experienced delays and those who did not.

RESULTS: There were 780 respondents (26% response), with breast, prostate, kidney, skin, and colorectal cancers representing the majority of respondents. Delays in cancer care were reported by 29% of respondents. In multivariable-adjusted models, rural residents (OR 1.47; 95% CI 1.03, 2.11) and those experiencing feelings of isolation (OR 2.18; 95% CI 1.37, 3.47) were more likely to report any delay, where experiencing financial difficulties predicted delays in treatment appointments (OR 5.72; 95% CI 1.96, 16.67). Health insurance coverage and concern about the pandemic were not statistically significantly associated with delays.

CONCLUSION: These findings may inform cancer care delivery during periods of instability when treatment may be disrupted by informing clinicians about concerns that patients have during the treatment process. Future research should assess whether delays in cancer care impact long-term cancer outcomes and whether delays exacerbate existing disparities in cancer outcomes.

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