In-Depth: Long COVID patients report worse health problems than cancer patients

CDC study looks compares three dozen health outcomes
Posted at 5:57 AM, Sep 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-13 13:46:09-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A CDC study found people suffering from long COVID report poorer health than people fighting cancer.

The study surveyed 1,295 people with long COVID about their overall health. It then gave the same questions to 2,395 patients fighting cancer. In all cases, the patients had been referred to outpatient rehabilitation clinics.

In nearly every category, people with long COVID fared worse than the people with cancer.

"I have to say I'm not surprised," says Dr. Lucy Horton from the UC San Diego Health Post-COVID Clinic. "I think it sheds light on long COVID being very significant and something that many patients face hardships with."

Full results from the surveys can be found here, but among the key findings:

  • For General Health, 32.9% of Long-COVID patients said their health was fair or poor, compared to 25.4% of cancer patients
  • 44.1% of long COVID patients said their physical health was fair or poor, compared with 32.6% of cancer patients
  • 40.5% of long COVID patients reported a pain level of 7 or higher, compared with 24.8% of cancer patients
  • 34.3% of long COVID patients say they're unable to run errands or shop, compared with 16.0% of cancer patients
  • 19.1% of long COVID patients described their mental health as fair or poor, compared with 15.3% of cancer patients

"I think it shows how much of an impact the Long-COVID symptoms have on patients functioning in their daily lives," says Dr. Horton.

"It's heartbreaking," adds Jennica Harris, a San Marcos mother who has been dealing with Long-COVID since March of 2020. "Seeing that study was heartbreaking, but I totally empathize. I can feel that pain."

Harris says studies like this one help her understand she's not suffering alone. She's hopeful it can lead to more acceptance and assistance for people like her. She also wants to erase the stigma of having long COVID.

"It is a disease, and I'm glad it's being taken seriously," Harris says.

Dr. Horton believes studies like this can lead to official disability diagnoses. That can open up more options for employee and federal assistance.

"The health care systems across the country really need to prepare for the needs of these patients," Dr. Horton says.