Women’s considerations and experiences for breast cancer screening and surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States: A focus group study
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in numerous changes in delivery of healthcare services, including breast cancer screening and surveillance. Although facilities have implemented a number of strategies to provide services, women’s thoughts and experiences related to breast cancer screening and surveillance during a pandemic are not well known. This focus group study with women across seven states recruited through the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium aims to remedy this gap in information. Thirty women ranging in age from 31 to 69 participated in five virtual focus groups, eight of whom had prior breast cancer. The first three focus groups covered a range of topics related to screening and surveillance during the pandemic while the last two groups covered experiences and then a review of sample communications to women about screening and surveillance during the pandemic to obtain reactions and recommendations. More than half of the women had screening or surveillance during the pandemic. Coding and analyses resulted in nine themes in three topic areas: decision factors, screening experiences, and preferred communications. Themes included weighing the risks of COVID-19 versus cancer; feelings that screening and surveillance were mostly safe but barriers may be heightened; feeling safe when undergoing screening but receiving a range of pandemic-specific communications from none to a lot; and wanting communications that are personalized, clear and concise. Based on these findings, providers and facilities should assure women of pandemic safety measures, review methods and content of communications, and assess for barriers to screening that may be amplified during the pandemic, including anxiety and access.