Q and A for Cancer Patients and Caregivers on COVID-19 and Cancer

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COVID-19 Answers for Cancer Patients and Caregivers

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For all people with cancer or a history of cancer, and people facing a possible cancer diagnosis:

  • In my situation, how can I prevent getting coronavirus?
  • Am I at higher risk of getting coronavirus or COVID-19? Why or why not?
  • Is there a specific type of doctor I should be asking to see now?
  • What symptoms of COVID-19 should I watch for?
  • What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?
  • If I get tested and I’m positive for coronavirus, what will happen?
  • If I get tested and I’m negative for coronavirus, what should I do if I still don’t feel well?
  • Will this outbreak or my coronavirus test result delay or affect my care in any way?
  • Is telehealth available so I get care virtually or be seen by a doctor over the internet?

For people getting ready to have exams, tests, or surgery for cancer:

  • Will having this procedure put me at a higher risk of getting coronavirus or COVID-19? Why or why not?
  • Is it necessary for me to have the procedure now or is it safe to wait?
  • Do you think I should delay this procedure? If so, for how long?
  • Is there a chance the hospital or facility will cancel my procedure? What are my options if it’s canceled? Can I have the procedure somewhere else?
  • Can I bring a family member or friend with me? Can people visit me? Can I visit other people?
  • Is telehealth available so I get care virtually or be seen by a doctor over the internet?
  • Will this outbreak delay any results from the procedure?

For people getting ready to start cancer treatment:

  • Will treatment put me at a higher risk of getting coronavirus or COVID-19? Why or why not?
  • Is there a chance I can be exposed to coronavirus when I come in for treatment?
  • Is it necessary to start treatment now or is it safe to wait? How long is OK to wait?
  • Do you think I should delay starting treatment?
  • Is there a chance the treatment center will cancel my scheduled treatment? What are my options if it’s canceled? Is there another treatment center where I can get treatment?
  • Can I bring a family member or friend with me to treatment?
  • Can I go to work? Should my caregiver go to work?
  • Can I visit friends? Can friends and relatives visit me?
  • Are there special precautions I should take after treatment begins?
  • Is telehealth available so I get care virtually or be seen by a doctor over the internet?
  • Can I get care, treatment, or bloodwork at home?

For people currently getting cancer treatment:

  • Does my treatment put me at higher risk of getting coronavirus or COVID-19? Why or why not?
  • Is there a chance I will be exposed to coronavirus when I come in for treatment?
  • Do I need to wear a mask or gloves at home when I’m around my family and other people?
  • How much do I need to stay at home? Can I run errands like going to the store?
  • Can I go to work? Should my caregiver go to work?
  • Can I visit friends? Can friends and relatives visit me?
  • Should I take my treatment now? Will it put me more at risk?
  • Are there medicines I can take during treatment to lessen my risk?
  • Do you think I should delay my treatment? If so, for how long?
  • What precautions do I need to take when I come in for treatment or check-ups?
  • Can I bring a family member or friend with me to treatment or check-ups?
  • Should I continue treatment or keep my appointments if I have symptoms of COVID-19?
  • Will I need to be seen more frequently now?
  • Will I need to have more frequent labs or exams now?
  • Is there a chance the treatment center will cancel my scheduled treatment? What are my options if it’s canceled? Is there another treatment center where I can get treatment?
  • Can I get care, treatment, or bloodwork at home?
  • Is telehealth available so I get care virtually or be seen by a doctor over the internet?
  • If I miss a treatment, what will happen? Are there other treatment options?

For people who are not currently getting treatment or who have finished treatment:

  • Am I still at higher risk of getting coronavirus or COVID-19? Why or why not?
  • Are there special precautions I should be taking? If so, for how long?
  • How much do I need to stay at home? Can I run errands like going to the store?
  • Can I go to work? Should my caregiver go to work?
  • Can I wait to come for follow-up tests or appointments until a later time?
  • Is there a chance I can be exposed to coronavirus if I come for follow-up tests or appointments?
  • Do you think I should I delay my upcoming check-up, follow-up test, or cancer screening?
  • Is there a chance my upcoming check-up, follow-up test, or cancer screening will be canceled? What will happen if it’s canceled? Can I get it somewhere else?
  • Can I reschedule a check-up, follow-up test, or cancer screening? If so, when should I reschedule it?
  • Is telehealth available so I get care virtually or be seen by a doctor over the internet?
  • Will this outbreak delay any test results?

Source: American Cancer Society

If on active cancer treatment, then patients should contact their treating oncologist by phone and make any arrangements as needed. If not on active treatment, then cancer survivors should contact their primary care doctor by phone and make any arrangements as needed.

Source: Cancer.net

Absolutely. The general public health recommendations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) make good sense at any time, but more so during times such as the COVID-19 outbreak. Things like keeping social distance, frequent and proper hand washing, avoiding large crowds, keeping surfaces clean and disinfected, and not touching your face when your hands are not thoroughly washed are all good strategies for anyone, but maybe even more important for cancer patients and survivors who may be immune-compromised. The CDC is keeping on top of the situation and there is no specific reason that any additional measures like wearing a facemask, or other apparatus when you are not sick, is needed if you are already following the advice they are giving. You can find the CDC guidance here on its website.

Source: Cancer.net

The term ‘immune compromised’ refers to individuals whose immune system is considered weaker, more impaired, or less robust than that of the average healthy adult. The primary role of the immune system is to help fight off infection. Individuals with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of getting infections, including viral infections such as COVID-19. There are many reasons that a person might be immune compromised: health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, older age, or lifestyle choices such as smoking can all contribute to weakened immune systems. Patients with cancer may be at greater risk of being immune compromised depending on the type of cancer they have, the type of treatment they receive, other health conditions, and their age. The risk of being immune compromised is typically highest during the time of active cancer treatment, such as during treatment with chemotherapy. There is no specific test to determine if a person is immune compromised, although findings such as low white blood cell counts or low levels of antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) in the blood likely indicate an immune compromised state.

Source: Cancer.net

People who have cancer or who are getting cancer treatment often have a higher risk of getting an infection, and infections can be more serious than in people who don’t have cancer. It’s important for patients and caregivers to know the signs of an infection and when to get help.

Source: American Cancer Society

It appears that patients with cancer and survivors of cancer may be at higher risk of health complications from COVID-19. This is not surprising given that this group of individuals is often immune compromised. There is also evidence from one study (Liang et al, Lancet Oncol, http://dx.doiorg/10.1016/S1470- 2045(20)30096-6) that reported patients with a history of cancer had a higher incidence of severe complications, including needing intensive care unit care, mechanical ventilation (being on a breathing machine) or death, compared with other patients who did not have cancer. This is just one study though, and the small number of cancer patients in that study (18 patients) cannot necessarily be generalized to all patients with cancer.

Source: Cancer.net

To date, no evidence is available to suggest that any cancer treatments raise your risk for getting COVID-19 any more or less than anyone else who is exposed to the virus. There is some evidence that patients with cancer may experience more serious COVID-19 infection if they acquire it, likely because cancer and cancer treatment can contribute to weakened immune systems which can then lead to a reduced ability to fight off infections. Patients who are getting treatment for cancer also interact with the health care system more frequently than the general population, so more exposure in that setting may contribute to a higher risk of getting an infection, but that is not known with certainty at this point. Patients are advised to speak with their cancer care team about whether non-essential clinic visits can be skipped, re-scheduled, or conducted by telephone or videoconferencing. Keep in mind, however, that skipping a treatment for cancer because of concerns about the risk of infection with COVID-19 is a serious decision and something that should be discussed with your oncologist.

Source: Cancer.net

Cancer is a serious condition that requires treatment. Regardless of the type of treatment, the best advice is to talk with your cancer care team about whether or not any modifications to your cancer treatment regimen are necessary. In the absence of any symptoms or signs of COVID-19 infection, continuing your cancer treatment is likely to be the best course of action.

Source: Cancer.net

There is no specific evidence to suggest that endocrine therapies can raise the risk for getting COVID-19 or having a more serious illness. Most endocrine therapies do not suppress the immune system.

Source: Cancer.net

There are many factors to consider when making an important decision such as postponing cancer treatment in order to avoid a potential infection with COVID-19. Patients should talk with their treating oncologist about the risks of postponing treatment versus the potential benefit of decreasing their infection risk. Things to discuss include the goals of cancer treatment, the likelihood that the cancer will be controlled with the treatment being planned, the intensity and side effects of the cancer treatment, and the supportive care that is available to reduce the side effects of treatment.

Source: Cancer.net

American Cancer Society Chat and Call Service

If you’re having trouble finding the information you need about cancer and COVID-19, the illness caused by the current strain of coronavirus, the American Cancer Society has a live chat and 24-hour helpline at 800-227-2345.

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Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.