Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Lessons learned from COVID-19: improving breast cancer care post-pandemic from the patient perspective.

BACKGROUND: Since the onset of the pandemic, breast cancer (BC) services have been disrupted in most countries. The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore the unmet needs, patient-priorities, and recommendations for improving BC healthcare post-pandemic for women with BC and to understand how they may vary based on social determinants of health (SDH), in particular socio-economic status (SES).

METHODS: Thirty-seven women, who were purposively sampled based on SDH and previously interviewed about the impact of COVID-19 on BC, were invited to take part in follow-up semi-structured qualitative interviews in early 2023. The interviews explored their perspectives of BC care since the easing of COVID-19 government restrictions, including unmet needs, patient-priorities, and recommendations specific to BC care. Thematic analysis was conducted to synthesize each topic narratively with corresponding sub-themes. Additionally, variation by SDH was analyzed within each sub-theme.

RESULTS: Twenty-eight women (mean age = 61.7 years, standard deviation (SD) = 12.3) participated in interviews (response rate = 76%). Thirty-nine percent (n = 11) of women were categorized as high-SES, while 61% (n = 17) of women were categorized as low-SES. Women expressed unmet needs in their BC care including routine care and mental and physical well-being care, as well as a lack of financial support to access BC care. Patient priorities included the following: developing cohesion between different aspects of BC care; communication with and between healthcare professionals; and patient empowerment within BC care. Recommendations moving forward post-pandemic included improving the transition from active to post-treatment, enhancing support resources, and implementing telemedicine where appropriate. Overall, women of low-SES experienced more severe unmet needs, which in turn resulted in varied patient priorities and recommendations.

CONCLUSION: As health systems are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the emphasis should be on restoring access to BC care and improving the quality of BC care, with a particular consideration given to those women from low-SES, to reduce health inequalities post-pandemic.

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