COVID-19 and Cancer: What You Should Know | MyHealthy Decisions

In this Cancer Care issue of MyHealthy Decisions, learn more about how cutting-edge technology, regularly scheduled cancer screenings, clinical trials, and a thorough team can improve cancer treatment outcomes.

What You Should Know

There are several things that can put you at high risk for a severe illness with COVID-19. One of them is a history of cancer. If you have cancer now or had it in the past, you may need to take special steps to prevent exposure to the coronavirus.

This is especially true if you're being treated with chemotherapy. That’s because chemotherapy can weaken your immune system. And that puts you at higher risk for infection. It also makes an infection more severe.

How to Avoid Infection

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to the virus by:

  • Cleaning your hands often. Use soap and water whenever possible. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before drying.
  • Avoiding other people as much as you can. Choose to stay at home whenever possible. If you must go out, stay at least 6 feet away from others.
  • Wearing a cloth face mask in public. Your mask should cover your mouth and nose. This helps protect other people in case you are sick and don’t know it yet. Remember that a face mask is not a replacement for social distancing.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas in your home. These include doorknobs, kitchen counters, phones, and light switches.
  • Avoiding being around sick people.
  • Asking others in your household to follow these same guidelines. It’s important for them to understand that their actions affect your health and well-being.

Other Ways to Protect Yourself

Be sure you have a month’s worth of the medications you need at home in case you do get sick. This would include any prescription medicines you take, as well as over-the-counter drugs for fever.

If you’re scheduled for cancer treatments during this outbreak, talk with your oncologist about the risks of having or delaying treatment.

And if you have medical appointments scheduled, see if you can visit via telemedicine instead of in-person visit. This can help reduce your potential exposure to the virus.

What to Do if You Think You're Sick

If you’re being treated for cancer and develop respiratory symptoms and a fever, call your doctor. They will let you know what to do. Be sure to let them know if you’re getting chemotherapy.

Some symptoms are severe and could be a medical emergency. Call 911 if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Persistent pain or pressure in your chest.
  • New confusion.
  • Inability to wake or stay awake.
  • Bluish lips.

If you test positive for the coronavirus, talk with your oncologist about how this might affect any cancer treatment. It’s possible your treatment could be delayed until you’re well again.