What else do cancer patients need to know about COVID-19?
Doctors are still learning about the possible risks of COVID-19 infection for cancer patients. But they do have a lot of information regarding the risk of infections in general for cancer patients.
Avoiding being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is especially important for cancer patients, who might be at higher risk for serious illness if they get infected. This is particularly true for patients who are getting chemotherapy or a stem cell (bone marrow) transplant, because their immune systems can be severely weakened by the treatment.
The pandemic is also affecting the way many people get medical care, including patients with cancer. Depending on the COVID-19 situation where you live, this may mean a delay in having cancer surgery or care that’s meant to keep cancer from returning. Some people may need to reschedule appointments.
Cancer care teams
Cancer care teams are doing the best they can to deliver care to their patients. However, even in these circumstances, it isn’t life as usual. It’s important to keep in contact with your cancer care team to determine the best course of action for you. This may involve talking to your care team virtually (online or over the phone) and not physically going to the clinic.
safely for an in-person visit as well as treatment
Many clinics and infusion centers have made changes to allow you to come in safely for an in-person visit as well as treatment. These might include screening for COVID-19 symptoms ahead of your visit, proper spacing of waiting room and infusion chairs, spacing out appointments to limit the number of people in the waiting room at one time, requiring people to wear a face cover, and cleaning all surfaces frequently. It’s important to know who to call to reach your cancer care team to find out how to proceed.
Other options for taking your cancer medications
You might have other options for getting your cancer medicines as well. For example, some people might be able to switch to oral medicines instead having to go in for infusions. For some people, another option might be to get infusions of their cancer medicines at home. However, there are safety issues to consider with home infusions, and it’s important to discuss these with your health care team before deciding on getting treatment this way.
this pandemic will take some time to resolve,
The issues with getting cancer treatment and testing during this pandemic will take some time to resolve, and even then, there will likely continue to be changes in the way cancer patients receive their care.
learn more about cancer patients and COVID-19
In the meantime, doctors need to learn more about cancer patients and COVID-19. Registries such as the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium and studies such as the NCI COVID-19 in Cancer Patients Study are actively collecting data. Early studies from registries in the US and around the world have looked at outcomes for cancer patients who develop COVID-19 with symptoms, as well as if certain anti-cancer treatments change these outcomes. These initial study results are helpful, but it is very important to gather more data and analyze it over a longer time to better understand the effects of COVID-19 on current and former cancer patients. Contact your doctor if you are interested in participating in a registry or study.