Balancing patients fears of recurrence and fears of COVID-19 when considering their preference for review consultations

SIMON ROGERS, Joanna Dimelow, Derek Lowe

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Purpose Head and neck cancer (HNC) patients may experience fears regarding cancer recurrence (FoR) and of catching COVID-19. There could be unease for attending hospital clinics for face to face (F2F) examination. F2F benefit in cancer
surveillance has to be balanced against the risk of virus transmission. This study aimed to report perceptions of fear of cancer and fear of COVID-19 and to report patient preference for follow-up consultation in HNC survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods The study ran from lockdown in England on 24th March to 29th July 2020. Patients were offered preference to postpone their consultation, to have it by telephone, or F2F. A postal survey was undertaken in the 2 weeks post-consultation (actual or postponed).
Results There were 103 patients. Initial action by consultant and patient resulted in 51 postponed consultations, 35 telephone consultations and 17 F2F meetings, with 10 F2F triggered by the patient. There were 58 responders to the survey and most (39) had a clear preference for one mode of follow-up consultation during the COVID-19 pandemic, with half (19) preferring F2F. A similar response was seen regarding their consultations in general to address unmet needs and concerns, with 38 having a preferred mode, 29 preferring F2F. Serious fears about recurrence and COVID-19 were at relatively low levels with a tendency to be more concerned about recurrence.
Conclusion Any redesign of mode and frequency of out-patient follow-up in light of COVID-19 should be undertaken in discussion with patient groups and with individual patients.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology
Early online date13 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Feb 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Fear of recurrence
  • Follow-up consultations


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