News Release

Patients with lung cancer more likely to feel anxiety and experience treatment delays during COVID-19 pandemic

Reports and Proceedings

International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer

(DENVER—September 11, 2021, 7 a.m. GMT/8 a.m. CDT/9 a.m. EDT)—Patients coping with lung cancer and treated in one hospital in Mexico reported high levels of anxiety and saw their treatment delayed or due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study presented today at the IASLC World Conference on Lung Cancer. 

There is limited evidence in Latin America about the overall detrimental effects of depression, anxiety and distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Dr. Oscar Arrieta, from Instituto Nacional de Cancerología, Mexíco City, Mexico.  Dr. Arrieta and his colleagues sought to determine the prevalence and impact of psychological disorders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

To determine the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of patients with lung cancer, psychiatrists performed a cross-sectional mental health evaluation in a single center between March 1, 2020, to February 28, 2021. Dr. Arrieta and his colleague enrolled 548 patients, average age 61.5.  Most patients had been diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (86.9%) and 80% had metastatic disease. 

Patients were assessed using the DASS-21 screening tool, a 21-question survey divided into three sections—depression, anxiety, and distress. 

The mean DASS-21 score was 10.45 with women reporting higher levels (11.41 vs 9.08) than men.  Almost a third of the patients reported they experienced anxiety during the pandemic, followed by depression and distress in equal proportions (18 %).  Nearly a quarter of patients (23.9 %) reported a change in treatment and 78.6% said those changes were due to reasons pertaining to the pandemic. Delays (≥ 7 days) were the most frequent treatment change in 41.9%, followed by treatment suspension at 37.4%.  

“After we adjusted for age and gender, we found that patients with lung cancer and depression were 4.5 times (95% CI 1.53 to 13.23, p=0.006) more likely to experience delays in their lung cancer treatment,” Dr. Arrieta reported.  Similarly, patients with stress had 3.18 higher odds of experiencing delays (95% CI 1.2 to 10.06, p= 0.006). Anxiety was not associated with delays in care.  

Dr. Arrieta also found that patients who reported no changes or delays in treatment had a more prolonged progression-free survival and overall survival [HR 0.21, p<0.001] and [HR 0.28, p<0.001]. 

“There is enough evidence to suggest that depression among patients with thoracic neoplasms is associated with treatment delays and changes in primary treatment, especially delays due to pandemic, were associated with lower survival rates than those without changes,” Dr. Arrieta reported. 

About the IASLC: 

The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) is the only global organization dedicated solely to the study of lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies. Founded in 1974, the association's membership includes nearly 7,500 lung cancer specialists across all disciplines in over 100 countries, forming a global network working together to conquer lung and thoracic cancers worldwide. The association also publishes the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, the primary educational and informational publication for topics relevant to the prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of all thoracic malignancies. Visit for more information.  


About the WCLC: 

The WCLC is the world’s largest meeting dedicated to lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies, attracting more than 7,000 researchers, physicians and specialists from more than 100 countries. The goal is to increase awareness, collaboration and understanding of lung cancer, and to help participants implement the latest developments across the globe. The conference will cover a wide range of disciplines and unveil several research studies and clinical trial results. For more information, visit

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