Background The COVID-19 pandemic has seen mass disruptions to healthcare globally. People with cancer are in a vulnerable position, and treatment teams may be anxious in making decisions that try to balance risks associated with malignant disease with those of potential exposure to COVID-19. In addition, palliative care is likely to have experienced significant burdens during the pandemic. As a result of COVID-19 disturbances, people with cancer and their caregivers may have increased stressors and therefore poor outcomes. Objective The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of people with cancer and their caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim to inform future oncology practice during infectious crises. Methods This qualitative study had 2 stages. Stage 1 involved key informant interviews (n = 16) conducted with healthcare professionals working in cancer care. These were used to inform the stage 2 interview guide for participants who had cancer or were caregivers of someone with cancer (n = 19). Data were thematically analyzed using NVivo. Results Five interconnected themes were identified from the interviews: uncertainty and vulnerability, constraints and restrictions, isolation and disconnection, burdens and stressors, and adaptability and resilience. Across themes, complexity and diversity in experience were demonstrated. Conclusions The findings suggest cancer concerns outweigh those associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many difficulties experienced by healthcare professionals and people with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic were related to social isolation. Implications for Practice Provision of psychosocial and spiritual telehealth services should be increased. It is important during times of crisis to pay attention to those who are most vulnerable.
- Key informant interviews
- Social support