Disruptions in Oncology Care Confronted by Patients with Gynecologic Cancer Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico

William A. Calo, Mirza Rivera, Pablo A. Mendez-Lazaro, Sandra I. Garcia-Camacho, Yanina M. Bernhardt Utz, Edna Acosta-Perez, Ana P. Ortiz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: In September 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria affected Puerto Rico (PR) and the US Virgin Islands (USVI), causing major disruptions in basic services and health care. This study documented the stressors and experiences of patients with gynecologic cancer receiving oncology care in PR following these hurricanes. Methods: We conducted 4 focus groups (December 2018-April 2019) among women aged ≥21 years from PR who were diagnosed with gynecological cancer between September 2016 and September 2018 (n = 24). Using the same eligibility criteria, we also interviewed patients from the USVI (n = 2) who were treated in PR. We also conducted key-informant interviews with oncology care providers and administrators (n = 23) serving gynecologic cancer patients in PR. Discussions were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded to identify emergent themes using a constant comparison method. Results: Analyses of focus group discussions and interviews allowed us to identify the following emergent themes: 1) disruptions in oncology care were common; 2) communication between oncology providers and patients was challenging before and after the hurricanes hit; 3) patient resilience was key to resume care; and 4) local communities provided much-needed social support and resources. Conclusions: This study provides firsthand information about the disruptions in oncology care experienced by and the resiliency of women with gynecologic cancer following hurricanes Irma and Maria. Our findings underscore the need to incorporate oncology care in the preparedness and response plans of communities, health systems, and government agencies to maintain adequate care for cancer patients during and after disasters such as hurricanes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCancer Control
StatePublished - Jul 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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