COVID-19 has created a stressful situation for all of us, but for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers, this new territory can be especially daunting. In this blog, we’ll cover important information that cancer patients and cancer survivors should be aware of amid the virus and the reopening of the state and country.
Am I at a higher risk of getting COVID-19 if I have cancer?
Research surrounding COVID-19 continues to be made public, but as it is a new virus, anyone exposed is at risk of contracting it. Having cancer does not put you at higher risk; however, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can weaken your immune system and thus increase your risk of contracting the coronavirus.
If you are a cancer patient, it’s also important to be aware of these other risk factors:
- Lung, heart, liver, or kidney disease
- Immune deficiencies, including HIV and AIDS
- Smoking, tobacco use
- A history of bone marrow or organ transplantation
- Prolonged use of corticosteroids or other medications that can weaken the immune system
As a cancer survivor, am I at risk?
If you were treated for cancer in the past, your immune system may be weakened. It’s important for cancer survivors to have a conversation with their doctor about COVID-19 and the appropriate precautions that should be taken.
What precautions should I take amid reopenings?
As the country and states prepare to reopen, you may be feeling anxious. It’s a good idea that current cancer patients continue to adhere to stay-at-home orders, even if their state is reopening businesses.
However, if you must leave your home, a facemask should always be worn and washed immediately upon return. Stay six feet away from people while out in public and continue to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.
Continuing With Your Treatment Plan
Unfortunately, it’s very likely that your treatment plan has been disrupted due to COVID-19. Before heading out to your next appointment, contact your doctor or oncologist about changes to your care. While some appointments or treatments can be delayed, others cannot. Additionally, routine visits or follow-ups can likely be conducted virtually or using telemedicine. Regardless of this, be sure you have your prescriptions filled regularly and delivered to your home.
The American Cancer Society has put together important questions that you should be mindful of and feel free to ask when interacting with your care team. Check out the list here.
How to Cope
Whether you have just recently been diagnosed or you’ve been battling cancer for some time, coping can be difficult, especially during times of quarantine and isolation. The National Cancer Institute has great reading resources if you are living with cancer and looking for ways to cope. Always know that you are not alone in your fight.