The Coronavirus pandemic has made this a frightening time for everyone. Many people are nervous and worrying about how to best protect themselves from the virus. For those dealing with cancer, this is an even more stressful time with several questions coming up, for instance: What important steps should I be taking? How do I control the anxiety I am having over this? How do I best protect myself?

There are many precautions you can take to protect yourself physically and to help support your emotional wellbeing. The information below will hopefully help you and your family to be better informed and lead to some peace of mind.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is believed to spread mainly from person-to-person and between people in close contact with one another. The virus is thought to spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Common symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing; however many other symptoms have been reported including loss of smell/taste, diarrhea, and some others. This virus is having a serious impact on many people, including cancer patients, their families, and caregivers. In this blog we explain how cancer patients and their families can protect themselves from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) during this pandemic.

I have cancer and I am going through treatments. What precautions should I take?

People who have cancer or who are getting cancer treatment often have a higher risk of getting an infection. These infections can be more serious than in people who don’t have cancer. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has specific recommendations for people at risk for serious illness, including COVID-19 infection.

According to the CDC, it is important to take the everyday precautions listed below.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
  • Wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
  • Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones)
  • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
  • Avoid all non-essential travel including plane trips, and especially avoid embarking on cruise ships.

Content provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For more guidance, please visit the CDC website.

Important Information for Cancer Patients:

Cancer patients that are in active chemotherapy are at an even higher risk because their immune systems can be severely weakened by the chemo treatment. Check with your cancer care team about the precautionary measures they are taking to keep patients safe. At the Saint John’s Cancer Institute located at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, we are taking all precautionary methods to ensure the health and safety of our patients.

If you are due for follow-up or routine cancer screening, please reach out to your health provider to see what the best approach is for your personal condition. Lifting of restrictions and resumption of normal screening is happening at different timepoints around the country. At our cancer clinic, we are beginning resumption of some cancer screenings.

If you are having symptoms or concerns, it’s important to contact us to speak with our experts about the best course of action for you at this time. Our cancer clinics are open and we are also offering telemedicine (virtual doctor visits) depending on your needs. When it comes to cancer, early detection is key, so don’t let this pandemic prevent you from getting screened if you are having any concerns. 

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Mental Health and Wellness During the Coronavirus Crisis:

Our team not only provides world class medical experts, but we are also your partners in care and use a multi-disciplinary approach to meet your individual needs based on your condition, requirements, and situation.

Our cancer support team focuses on caring for the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. Whether you need to speak with an oncology psychiatrist or an oncology social worker, our team is available for cancer patients and their families to help during this challenging pandemic.

Cancer Support Services Available at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute:                             

At our cancer center, rest assured you can benefit from innovative and compassionate care along with an array of services to support your emotional wellbeing to complement your medical treatment. Please visit the links below to find additional information to help with your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Questions or want to schedule an appointment?

If you have any questions or concerns, our staff and doctors are here for you during this time. We are now providing virtual doctor appointments. Please contact us to discuss if telemedicine is an option for your personal condition.

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About the Author

Dr. Melanie Goldfarb

Dr. Melanie Goldfarb is a fellowship-trained endocrine surgeon and Director of the Center for Endocrine Tumors and Disorders at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute. Her expertise is minimally invasive surgery for thyroid cancer and disorders, hyperparathyroidism, and adrenal tumors, including pheochromocytoma, Cushings, Conns, and adrenal cancer. Dr. Goldfarb also the Medical Director for Cancer Survivorship at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute. Learn More About Dr. Melanie Goldfarb.