Cancer Survivors in Active Treatment Likelier to Endorse COVID-19 Misinformation Vs Those With No Cancer History

A survey suggests individuals with cancer who were undergoing active treatment were more likely to endorse COVID-19 related misinformation than those with no history of cancer.

Survivors of cancer currently undergoing treatment were more likely to endorse misinformation regarding the COVID-19 virus than individuals without a history of cancer (P = .019), with cancer survivors not currently undergoing treatment being the least likely to endorse misinformation (P <.001), according to results from a survey published in Patient Education and Counseling.

Results of the survey highlighted high levels of misinformation engagement and suggest the need for oncologists and care providers to be particularly mindful of elevated beliefs in COVID-19 misinformation among survivors of cancer who are in active treatment.

“Since patients undergoing cancer treatment seem to be particularly vulnerable to be exposed to COVID-19 misinformation, oncologists and other healthcare providers working with this patient population have the opportunity play an important role in helping to address patients’ concerns about how the pandemic relates to their course of treatment,” the investigators wrote.

Self-reported data from 897 survey respondents were collected between June 1, 2020 and June 15, 2020. Survivors of cancer currently undergoing treatment accounted for 32.0% of respondents, survivors who were not currently undergoing treatment made up 33.6% of respondents, and individuals with no cancer history accounted for 34.4% of the survey population.

The survey asked, “How much stress has the COVID-19 caused you?” to determine the levels of stress the pandemic has caused for respondents, with response options ranging from “not at all stressed” to “extremely stressed.” A series of COVID-19 related misinformation statements (n = 21) via the World Health Organization’s website were presented and responses were measured with options ranging from “definitely untrue” to “definitely true.”

Males were found to be more likely to endorse COVID-19 misinformation (P <.001), as were younger patients compared with older patients (P <.001). Education, race, and perceived stress were not found to impact endorsement of COVID-19 misinformation.

Limitations of this survey report include the cross-sectional design, the self-reporting of cancer diagnosis status that included limited disease and treatment details, and that the population was chosen via a convenience sample. Moreover, diversity within the cancer groups was relatively low compared to the overall sample population.

“Oncologists and other providers working with patients undergoing treatment for cancer should be particularly mindful of the potential elevated beliefs in misinformation among this group. Strategic communications aimed at individuals at high-risk of COVID-19 complications due to underlying comorbidities are especially critical,” the investigators concluded.

Reference

Guidry JPD, Carlyle KE, Miller CA, et al. Endorsement of COVID-19 related misinformation among cancer survivors. Patient Educ Couns. 2022;105(2):265-268. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2021.05.026