Cancer, low income raised anxiety in women during pandemic

Women who have gynecologic cancer and low income reported having more anxiety and financial distress during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study.

For the study, Y. Stefanie Chen and her team from the Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City conducted telephonic interviews with 100 women with gynecologic cancer living in New York City who were covered by Medicaid health insurance.

They found that 50 per cent of the patients reported feeling more financial stress since the start of the pandemic, while 54 per cent said they worry about future financial problems due to the pandemic.

Nearly 50 per cent of patients expressed increased anxiety about cancer since the start of the pandemic, while 83 per cent expressed feeling increased anxiety in general.

Having an income less than $40,000 per year was the most common factor associated with increased financial distress, cancer worry and anxiety. Early-stage cancer (Stage I-II) was also a risk factor for increased financial distress.

“Patients with cancer are already financially vulnerable as many face changes in employment status when they undergo treatment, and also because cancer treatments can become costly as they accrue over time,” said Chen.

“Patients with low income may struggle to prioritise cancer care and treatments over other costs of daily living, especially when they face changes in employment, not only due to their cancer diagnosis, but also because of the changes in the job market caused by the pandemic,” Chen added.

The findings have been published online in the peer-reviewed journal CANCER.

Chen supports increased screening for anxiety and financial stress in these patients.

“Understanding the complexity of finances, mental health and cancer treatments in this population is crucial for the development of interventions and navigation strategies to ensure timely care and to promote survivorship among patients with all stages of cancer,” she said.