Cancer services during the COVID-19 pandemic: systematic review of patients’ and caregivers’ experiences

Symran Dhada, Derek Stewart, Ejaz Cheema, Muhammad Abdul Hadi, Vibhu Paudyal

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Purpose: Cancer patients have faced intersecting crises during the COVID-19 pandemic. This review aimed to examine patients’ and caregivers’ experiences of accessing cancer services during the pandemic and its perceived impact on their psychological wellbeing.
Patients and Methods: A protocol-led (CRD42020214906) systematic review was conducted by searching six databases including EMBASE, MEDLINE and CINAHL for articles published in English-language between 1/2020 and 12/2020. Data were extracted using a pilot-tested, structured data extraction form. Thematic synthesis of data was undertaken and reported as per the PRISMA guideline.
Results: A total of 1110 articles were screened, of which 19 studies met the inclusion criteria. Studies originated from 10 different countries including the US, UK, India and China. Extracted data were categorised into seven themes. Postponement and delays in cancer screening and treatment, drug shortages and inadequate nursing care were commonly experienced by patients. Hospital closures, resource constraints, national lockdowns and patient reluctance to use health services due to infection worries contributed to the delay. Financial and social distress, isolation, and spiritual distress were also commonly reported. Caregivers in addition felt anxious about infecting cancer patients with COVID-19.
Conclusion: Patients and caregivers experienced delays in cancer screening, treatment and care during the COVID-19 pandemic and negatively affected their psychological wellbeing. Their views and preferences should be accounted to minimise the impact of the current and any future pandemics and ensure resilient cancer services.
Protocol Registration: Published protocol registered with Centre for Review and Dissemination CRD42020214906 (
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5875-5887
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Management and Research
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 Dhada et al.


  • cancer care
  • cancer screening
  • COVID-19
  • coronavirus
  • patients
  • caregivers


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