The COVID-19 outbreak is still new, so doctors do not have a lot of specific information on this coronavirus for cancer patients. But they do have a lot of information regarding the risk of infections in general for cancer patients.
Doctors and health officials agree the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus, which is especially important for cancer patients because they are at higher risk for serious illness, if they get infected, particularly patients who are in active chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant patients. That’s because their immune systems can be severely weakened by the treatment.
The CDC is now recommending that health care facilities and doctors prioritize urgent and emergency visits and procedures for the coming several weeks.
“We’re headed for a time when there will be significant disruptions in the care of patients with cancer,” says Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society. “For some it may mean a delay in having elective surgery. For others it may be delaying preventive care or adjuvant chemotherapy that’s meant to keep cancer from returning.” You may need to reschedule appointments.
Lichtenfeld says cancer care teams are going to do to the best they can to deliver care to those most in need. However, even in those circumstances, it won’t be life as usual. “It will require patience on everyone’s part as we go through this pandemic,” Lichtenfeld adds. “It is important to maintain contact with your cancer care team to determine the best course of action for you. This may involve non-urgent follow up visits or talking to your care team virtually and not physically going to the clinic. So, it’s important to know who to call to reach your cancer care team to find out how to proceed.”
Lichtenfeld adds, “These circumstances will take months to resolve, and even then, we will continue to have changes in the way cancer patients receive their treatment.”
Should people still get screened for cancer during this pandemic?
Health officials are urging everyone to stay home as much as possible to further reduce the risk of being exposed to COVID-19. What should you do if you’re due for a cancer screening?
According to Dr. Richard Wender, Chief Cancer Control Officer for the American Cancer Society, “the American Cancer Society recommends that no one should go to a health care facility for routine cancer screening at this time.” This means if you’re due for your screening to detect breast, colon, cervix, or lung cancer, postpone your appointment for the near future. “Remember, these screening tests save lives. When restrictions lift, it’s important to reschedule any screening test that you’re due to receive,” says Wender. “Getting back on track with cancer screening should be a high priority,” he adds.
Screening tests are different from tests your doctor might order if you have symptoms that could be from cancer. If you’re having symptoms you’re concerned about, contact your health care provider about the best course of action for you at this time.
Story source: The American Cancer Society.
Featured image credit: CDC.