For the past several months, we have all been dealing with the stress, fear and anxiety COVID-19 has unexpectedly brought into our lives. We have been thrown into a state of uncertainty, not knowing what the future holds. As a person with cancer, there are added concerns about health and access to treatment. Read on to get answers to questions you may have.
Are people being treated for cancer at higher risk of COVID-19?
While we are still learning about the COVID-19 virus, we do know that people with underlying medical conditions, including cancer, appear to be at a higher risk for the more serious outcomes of COVID-19.
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy can all have an impact on the immune system and may make patients susceptible to infection. More research needs to be done to fully understand how different treatments can affect people with cancer who are diagnosed with COVID-19.
If you have concerns about your risk for COVID-19, talk to your healthcare team. They are the best source of information about your health and treatment plan.
If you are living with cancer, you should do your best to avoid infection by following the rules set in place by health experts and public and provincial health authorities. This includes: staying home as much as possible, if you do go out – maintaining a physical distance of at least 2 metres, wearing a mask in public spaces, washing hands frequently with soap and water and avoiding touching your face.
If you are being treated for cancer and develop a fever, cough or breathing problems, call your healthcare team. Follow their advice on when you should come into the clinic and when it’s safer to stay home.
Can my loved ones still see me?
Other than the rules set in place by public and provincial health authorities, there are no special precautions that have been put in place for people with cancer. It is important to consider the protection of your health and the maintenance of your mental well-being when making the decision as to whether or not you want to see loved ones. Talk to your healthcare team about what they recommend based on your particular situation and medications you are on – they are always the best source of advice when it comes to your health.
Don’t isolate yourself! Stay connected with others (by phone or video chat) to keep your spirits up and to help manage any anxiety or stress you have. If you want to connect with others living with cancer through COVID, there are a number of online communities you can join.
Will my treatment plan be impacted?
It’s natural to be worried that COVID may affect your cancer care, including treatment you need to receive. Every city and cancer centre is different, so it’s hard to predict if there will be any changes to your care plan. Here are a few tips to help you manage this uncertainty:
- As a first step, talk to your healthcare team to ask if, and how, your treatment and care will change. If you have any concerns, tell them, and ask what other options are available.
- Ask if virtual options, like video chat, are available for follow-up appointments.
- Try to be ready for a change to your normal schedule of care (e.g., change or delay in appointments).
- Prepare for added screening and requirements at the hospital (e.g., COVID testing, wearing a mask).
Maintaining open and consistent dialogue with your healthcare team is critical to staying on top of your care. As the situation with COVID-19 is rapidly changing, it’s important to get regular updates on any impact it may have on your care plan.
If you would like more information about your risk for COVID-19 or your cancer treatment plan, speak with your doctor.