The purpose was to investigate whether social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic reduced health-related quality of life (HRQL) in esophageal cancer patients and if so, to identify factors related to the HRQL changes.
A prospective Swedish nationwide study of patients who undergone surgery for esophageal cancer between 2013 and 2019. Telephone interviews were conducted 5 weeks and 13 weeks after the introduction of social distancing recommendations. The participants responded to a few scales and items from the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire C30. Regression models adjusted for potential confounders were used to examine mean score differences (MSD) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) between compliance with the recommendations and HRQL.
In total, 134 individuals participated in the study. At 5 weeks, a reduction in role function was seen for individuals who fully (MSD -8, 95% CI: -16 to 0) and to a large extent (MSD -19, 95% CI: -26 to -12) complied with the recommendations. Less fatigue (MSD 9, 95% CI: 3-15) was also detected for this group. Being female, elderly, having comorbidities, living in a region with higher COVID-19 incidence, living in a villa, and being considered as an at-risk person were related to changes in role function. At 13 weeks, reductions in role function continued for those who fully complied with the recommendations (MSD -10, 95% CI: -19 to -1), but the risk variables were of less importance. Improvements in fatigue were no longer detected. Global quality of life, emotional function, or insomnia remained stable over time.
This study indicates that individuals who undergone surgery for esophageal cancer and fully or to a large extent complied with the recommendations experienced reductions in role function, but not in global quality of life or emotional function, during the COVID-19 pandemic.