When COVID-19 strikes cancer patients

People suffering from cancer are more prone to severe infection due to their weakened immune system

When COVID-19 strikes cancer patients

In today’s time, coronavirus is spreading at an epidemic rate, and many questions are there related to cancer patients who are on chemotherapy or visiting hospitals on a regular basis for treatment. This article is specifically written for cancer patients while on chemotherapy.

How can I self screen myself against corona infection?

Coronavirus shares many symptoms with other flu conditions, and hence it is natural that patient can get confused and panic about the situation. A combination of fever with or without difficulty in breathing with positive travel history or coming in contact with patients or persons who travelled recently could indicate a possible coronavirus infection. In this case, one should use a face mask immediately to prevent further spread of infection.

Can I bring my family with me to support me?

Patient and relatives must understand that it is a joint effort to control and take care of the patient during the time of coronavirus epidemic. Patients should bring only one visitor or companion in the building at a time. This extends to all areas of the hospital, including outpatient clinics, infusion, inpatient floors, and surgical or procedure visits.

Exceptions may be made for visitors of patients receiving end-of-life care. No visitors or companions are allowed for patients with confirmed or possible COVID-19.

Visitors who are sick or under the age of 18 should not visit.

Visitors must cooperate in hand hygiene protocol. They must wash their hands or use sanitizer with 60% alcohol or more before entering and upon leaving a patient room, exam room etc.

How can I protect myself?

Hand hygiene and coughing hygienes are the best way to protect yourself and others. These steps are common for cancer patients as well as for the general public. 

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol until you can wash your hands with soap and water.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth without washing your hands first. Clean and disinfect surfaces often.

Regular household wipes and sprays will kill the virus. Be sure to clean places that people touch a lot, such as door handles, phones, keyboards, and light switches.

Avoid handshakes, hugging, and standing or sitting close to people who are coughing or sneezing.

Be as healthy as you can. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, exercise, and manage your stress.

If you are sick, follow these steps 

λ Stay home. 

λ Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. 

λ If you use a tissue, put it in the garbage right away. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow crease. 

λ Call before going for your medical appointments. Let them know about recent travel or if you have had contact with a person with COVID-19.

Are cancer patients more likely to get sick from coronavirus?

It is possible that cancer patients are at a higher risk of more severe symptoms because of their lowered immune system due to medications and treatment like chemotherapy.

Like other healthy people, they should do their best to avoid infection. See the previous question for common preventive steps against the virus. 

Will wearing a mask protect me (cancer patient) from being infected?

Mask related advice for healthy cancer patients is the same as for any other person. If you are healthy, wearing a mask is not recommended. The most important way to protect yourself is by washing your hands properly and avoid touching your face. Masks should only be used if you are sick to prevent transmission to others. Using the same mask beyond the recommended time or after it is spoiled should be avoided

Will I be taken care of if I get sick?

Yes. Your care is our top priority. Although we may change some ways we care for you, we will never put your care or health at risk.

Following are few dose and don’ts for cancer patients, these are the points in addition to routine measures which are already in the news.

1. Regular follow up for routine screening for surveillance should be postponed until coronavirus shows a declining trend

2. Even in the case of adjuvant treatment where the patient is taking chemotherapy after surgery or radiation, treatment with minimal benefit should be cancelled or postponed. You need to discuss with your oncologist which chemotherapy can be considered under this category.

Prolonged intervals between two chemotherapy session for example, instead of weekly paclitaxel try to give it on two weeks or on a three-weekly basis. Similarly, immunotherapy can be given monthly instead of once every two weeks.

Some advice for the medical crew involved in taking care of cancer patient

1. There should be more space between the seats at the waiting area.

2. Screening at arrival by temperature measuring is already in place but cooperation from the general public is required.

3. Reduce the number of people who visit the patient.

4. Prohibit visitors in wards and reduce the number of visitors for other non cancer patient as well. 

It is a global fight against global threat and we must fight it together. Prevention is much easier and effective than treatment and social distancing with hygiene are most effect in prevention.

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