What Cancer Patients Need to Know About COVID-19

 Everywhere you look, it’s clear that the highly contagious coronavirus, or COVID-19, has turned our world upside down. According to the CDC, the COVID-19 infection disproportionately affects people who:

  1. are older than 65
  2. have pre-existing health conditions 
  3. or may be pregnant

Unfortunately, people living with cancer (and even cancer survivors) are more vulnerable to infection by COVID-19. We've asked our Medical Advisory Board for their expert advice regarding what you need to know to protect yourself and your loved ones from contracting this virus. 

Here are five essential health tips from our Medical Advisory Board, as well as the Center for Disease Control, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the American Cancer Society:

1) Connect with your oncology team.

Whether you are actively undergoing cancer treatment or not, check with your healthcare team about the precautions you should take during this pandemic. 

If you are currently undergoing chemotherapy or immunotherapy…

Stopping treatment is currently not recommended by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Call your provider's office to see if you should continue treatment or stay home. 

If you are currently undergoing radiation…

You may be able to pause treatment. Check with your radiation oncologist to see what course of action is best for your specific situation. 

Your oncology team will have specific guidance for you, depending on the severity of your diagnosis and treatment plan.

2) Practice social distancing.

Keep yourself safe by staying at home and limiting your contact with others, especially those who are sick. If you have a loved one or caregiver who has recently traveled to an area with a severe coronavirus outbreak, avoid seeing them in person for 14 days.

You may be wondering...what are the symptoms of the infection and when should I contact a medical professional?

According to the CDC, common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • And Shortness of Breath

While more severe, life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19 include: 

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

If you or your loved one experience any of the above symptoms, contact your medical provider immediately. 

3) Maintain personal hygiene.

Proper hygiene is critical to protect yourself and your loved ones from this virus. Washing your hands, disinfecting surfaces, and sticking to a consistent routine will help contain the virus and decrease stress. 

Wash your hands often. 

If you're unable to wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that is 60% alcohol or more. However, we know washing your hands frequently may make sensitive skin prone to dryness. We offer hydrating relief specifically for people dealing with cancer, as well as additional tips about how to protect your skin from becoming too dry.

Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.

Use disinfectant spray and wipes to clean your home. Pay extra attention to commonly used surfaces like door handles, light switches, computer keyboards, and phones.

Establish healthy routines.

Prioritize sleep, eat balanced meals, exercise, and reduce stress. If possible, spend time outside and connect online or by phone with friends and loved ones. 

4) Choose curbside pick-up or at-home deliveries.

Many grocery stores and pharmacies are offering delivery and pick-up options for people who are immunosuppressed, so you don't have to go to the store if you're trying to keep a safe distance from others. 

Grocery stores that offer pick-up, delivery, or both:

  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Kroger
  • Safeway
  • Albertson's
  • AmazonFresh
  • Ralphs

Pharmacies that provide pick-up, delivery, or both:

  • Oncoderm
  • CVS
  • Kroger
  • Safeway
  • Target
  • Walgreens

5) Prioritize your emotional well-being.

Dealing with the uncertainties and unknowns of a pandemic can be incredibly stressful. Find ways to replenish your body and mind with exercise, books, check-in with loved ones, develop your hobbies, and take breaks from the news. 

Nourish your body and mind.

Invest time in stretching, going for walks, meditating, and finding space for joy. Prioritize your emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing during this challenging season. 

Connect with loved ones.

Check-in with friends and family. It’s important to connect with your support network during this time. 

Focus on hobbies. 

Spend your time focusing on hobbies and crafts that bring you joy. Whether it's gardening, building model planes, or pulling out some old board games—invest in yourself and the hobbies you enjoy the most. 

Take breaks from the news.

Schedule times where you don't watch, read, or listen to news stories and social media. Consider only checking in a few times a day. While being informed is a good thing, limiting negative information can be beneficial to your overall well-being. 

In summary, during this COVID-19 outbreak, it's important to connect with your healthcare team, whether you're in active treatment or not. Distance yourself socially from others and practice good personal hygiene. Try to find companies that deliver or offer curbside pick-up to limit your exposure to the virus. 

Ultimately, prioritize your emotional and physical well-being.

While this situation is stressful, you are not alone in dealing with all of this. Your oncology and Oncoderm team are here to offer support and answer any questions you have.