The patient interval—the time patients wait before consulting their physician after noticing cancer symptoms—contributes to diagnostic delays. We compared anticipated help-seeking times for cancer symptoms and perceived barriers to help-seeking before and after the coronavirus pandemic.
Two waves (pre-Coronavirus: February 2020, N = 3269; and post-Coronavirus: August 2020, N = 1500) of the Spanish Onco-barometer population survey were compared. The international ABC instrument was administered. Pre–post comparisons were performed using multiple logistic and Poisson regression models.
There was a consistent and significant increase in anticipated times to help-seeking for 12 of 13 cancer symptoms, with the largest increases for breast changes (OR = 1.54, 95% CI 1.22–1–96) and unexplained bleeding (OR = 1.50, 1.26–1.79). Respondents were more likely to report barriers to help-seeking in the post wave, most notably worry about what the doctor may find (OR = 1.58, 1.35–1.84) and worry about wasting the doctor’s time (OR = 1.48, 1.25–1.74). Women and older individuals were the most affected.
Participants reported longer waiting times to help-seeking for cancer symptoms after the pandemic. There is an urgent need for public interventions encouraging people to consult their physicians with symptoms suggestive of cancer and counteracting the main barriers perceived during the pandemic situation.