COVID-19 & Cancer

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A cancer diagnosis is a stressful life event to contend with. Whether you’re a current cancer patient or have a history of cancer, you’re probably no stranger to the emotional upheaval that cancer brings with it. Pair that with the global coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, and you’re likely bursting with questions about how to navigate the “new normal.” DispatchHealth is here to help. 

Are You at Increased Risk? 

COVID-19 is incredibly contagious—the case count in the United States has officially topped 5 million. But are cancer patients at greater risk of contracting the virus than healthy individuals? 

The answer is no. The coronavirus is just as contagious to cancer patients as it is to everyone else. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer patients do, however, have an increased risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

This is especially true for cancer patients who are in active chemotherapy treatment or undergoing stem cell (bone marrow) transplants. Both of these treatments can weaken the immune system, and the CDC states that immunocompromised individuals are among those at highest risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19. 

Keep in mind—the coronavirus is still relatively new, and we’re learning more about it every day. It’s not yet known whether having a history of cancer increases your risk of developing serious complications from the illness, but that doesn’t mean that people with cancer history should rest on their laurels. It’s better to err on the side of caution and take all preventative measures possible.

What Can You Do to Lessen Your Risk? 

Since cancer patients are at higher risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19, what can you do to help lessen your risk of contraction?

First things first: You should have a conversation with your cancer care team to talk about your individual level of risk, your treatment plan in light of the pandemic, and the COVID-19 transmission levels in your particular community. Your medical providers will help you determine a plan of action to continue your treatment while minimizing your risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Secondly, don’t stop taking your medications exactly as prescribed or otherwise alter your treatment plan without talking to your medical providers first. You should also ensure you have at least a 30-day supply of your medications so you can avoid visiting the pharmacy as much as possible. 

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed to the virus, since it travels easily through respiratory droplets. Stay home as much as possible—without delaying emergency care, of course—and if you do need to leave the house, make sure to take preventive measures, such as wearing a mask and maintaining a six-foot distance from others at all times. You should also wash your hands and any frequently touched surfaces in your home often.

Should You Continue Treatment or Stay Home? 

What about your active treatment plan? This is the question on so many cancer patients’ minds right now. Should you continue as usual or interrupt treatment to avoid the risk of contracting the coronavirus? 

The answer largely depends on your unique situation. Talk to your cancer care team about your options. Some cancer patients might be able to switch from infusions to oral medications, depending on their specific care plan. Some might also be able to receive infusions at home.

Many cancer patients will continue to receive in-person treatment at their healthcare facilities. Things will be different, though, as medical establishments have taken many precautions to help keep patients safe during COVID-19. You can likely expect: 

  • Required screening for COVID-19 symptoms before your visits 
  • Spaced-out waiting rooms and infusion chairs
  • Longer wait times as facilities limit the number of people allowed inside 
  • Required face masks

While the interruption to your care can be frustrating, remember that these measures are put in place to allow you to continue to receive treatment while keeping you and your fellow cancer patients safe.

Turn to DispatchHealth 

If you’re a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy or stem cell treatment, your immune system is compromised right now—so a trip to the emergency room or urgent care clinic for something like a muscle sprain or UTI could put you at risk of contracting COVID-19. DispatchHealth can help. We offer convenient, in-home care for people who don’t want to chance a trip to the emergency room during the COVID-19 crisis. We can treat nearly everything an emergency department can and are taking stringent precautions to keep our staff and patients safe from coronavirus. We also accept most major forms of medical insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, and offer an affordable, flat rate for uninsured patients. We’ll be sure to keep your other medical providers in the loop about your care, too, by sending a detailed report back to them after our visit. Contact us via our website, our app, or over the phone to receive the care you need at your doorstep within a few hours. 

Sources

DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/common-questions-about-the-new-coronavirus-outbreak.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-map
  4. https://www.pennmedicine.org/cancer/about/focus-on-cancer/2020/june/cancer-and-covid
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/immunocompromised.html
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html

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