COVID-19 (Coronavirus) & Cancer
For patients with cancer, taking precautionary steps to avoid illnesses like coronavirus should be a habit. Patients with cancer have lowered immune systems due to treatment or to the cancer itself, so contracting COVID-19 or other illnesses can be dangerous. It is more important than ever before for those with and without cancer to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading illnesses because of the coronavirus.
What Should I Ask My Doctor About COVID-19?
During this time, the way your cancer is treated or monitored may differ. How you treat or monitor side effects of treatment and the signs of getting sick may change too. A few important questions to ask your provider about coronavirus are:
- Does my cancer put me at higher risk of getting COVID-19?
- Does treatment of this cancer put me at higher risk of contracting COVID-19? Why or why not?
- Is it safe to start or continue treatment at this time?
- What precautions do I need to take when I come in for treatment or check-ups?
- Is it safe to visit with family members and/or friends, or should I be isolated?
- If I get a COVID-19 infection, how will it affect my treatment?
You and your provider should create a plan for how to monitor and treat your cancer during this time. Chemotherapy or immunotherapy infusions, radiation therapy or scans, procedures or surgery still require you to come into the hospital or clinic.
While cancer patients are more susceptible to COVID-19 and other illnesses due to their immunocompromised status, there are steps that everyone can take to lower the chances of catching or spreading the coronavirus.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20-seconds.
- Practice social distancing and avoid large crowds. This is especially important for those with lowered immune systems including cancer patients.
- Limit or avoid person-to-person-contact and avoid those who look or feel ill.
- Wear a mask.
- Get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Stay home if feeling ill!
- Maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise.
For cancer patients isolating at home with family members, it is important that those individuals follow the same coronavirus prevention guidelines, frequent hand washing, social distancing, limiting contact, avoiding sick contacts. If anyone in the household has symptoms of a viral infection, they should self-isolate. Cancer patients who feel ill and have or may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their health care provider for guidance before going to a hospital or urgent care.
New drugs have been approved to use in cancer patients to prevent COVID-19 infections and shorten the disease course if you do get infected. Talk with your oncologist to find out if one of these drugs is appropriate for you.
This information has been reviewed and approved by Jeff Kern, MD, and Laurie Carr, MD (February 2022)