Cancer patients are one of the groups most vulnerable to contracting coronavirus due to immunosuppression, that is, a more weakened immune system due to treatments such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy or a recent oncological intervention.
At the moment, there is no evidence that the virus can worsen each patient’s tumor disease. However, a more severe clinical framework is associated in the cancer patient, which could increase the risk of virus complications.
It is advisable for a multidisciplinary team, made up of pulmonologists, internists and oncologists, among others, to make an individualized evaluation of each cases to assess whether it is advisable to continue cancer treatment in case of risk or contraction of the virus. If you have cancer and are receiving treatment, before attending your next appointment, call your doctor and follow his recommendations. It is possible that if these are scheduled follow-up or routine appointments, you can make them virtually. Remote monitoring of patients, known as telemedicine, is consolidating during this health crisis and offers to care for patients, minimizing the risks of contagion due to travel or contact with other patients.
In case of continuing with the treatment, it is convenient to limit the number of people in the waiting rooms and prevent anyone presenting fever, cough or other symptoms of COVID-19 from going to the hospital with the cancer patient. In the chemotherapy room it is also reasonable to limit the presence of companions, always respect the decision of doctors and nurses to let people in with you.
The best way to prevent the disease is not to expose yourself to the virus. Therefore, if you have cancer, the most important thing is to follow the established preventive measures:
- Avoid leaving home if it is not strictly necessary.
- If you must expose yourself, wash your hands frequently following the recommendations of the health authorities, use disposable tissues and gloves to touch the surfaces and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid sharing food and kitchen utensils without having cleaned them properly, if possible at high temperatures inside the dishwasher.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow flexed when you sneeze or cough.
- Avoid contact with coronavirus sufferers and keep the safety distance of two meters with all people.
- Do not smoke or drink alcohol.
If you have doubts about the role of masks, despite the fact that there is still no full consensus between national and international health authorities, they all point out that the main function of masks is to prevent the transmission of the virus in people sick with coronavirus. They are also recommended to immunosuppressed patients as a barrier to contagion, so we invite you to consult with the doctor who is leading your cancer treatment if he considers appropriate to wear a mask and under what circumstances.
On the other hand, if you have the symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever or cough, it is best to call your doctor. If you have questions or are concerned about coronavirus and cancer, you can also call the Cancer Information Service or the general telephone number set for the coronavirus in your area, who will help you solve all your doubts and to be more calm.
- Instituto Nacional del Cáncer. ‘Coronavirus: información para las personas con cáncer’. Última consulta 09/04/2020: https://www.cancer.gov/espanol/contactenos/emergencia/coronavirus
- American Society of Clinical Oncology. ‘Preguntas frecuentes sobre el COVID19 y el cáncer’ Última consulta 09/04/2020: https://www.cancer.net/es/blog/2020-04/preguntas-frecuentes-sobre-el-covid-19-y-el-c%C3%A1ncer-respuestas-para-pacientes-y-sobrevivientes
- InfoSalus. ‘Covid-19 y cáncer: cómo afecta y cómo hay que actuar’. Última consulta 09/04/2020: https://www.infosalus.com/asistencia/noticia-covid-19-cancer-afecta-hay-actuar-20200405075934.html?fbclid=IwAR171RNO82gExt_v3X0JHpJSlvzCs70bhJZriE9Zy1Z6nzJ663hhBh8iNnU
- Sociedad Española de Oncología Médica. ‘Recomendaciones SEOM sobre la infección por coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.’. Última consulta: https://seom.org/images/RECOMENDACIONES_SEOM_COV19_marzo2020.pdf