Guide for cancer patients during the coronavirus pandemic
While overall population is at risk of contracting Covid-19, based on today’s available knowledge, we know that older people and those with underlying health conditions are at higher risk. According to ESMO (European Society of Medical Oncology), you could find yourself in this situation:
- If you are currently in chemotherapy, or have received chemotherapy in the last 3 months
- If you are undergoing extensive radiotherapy
- If you have had a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant in the last 6 months, or are still taking immunosuppressive drugs
- If you have any type of blood or lymphatic system cancer which damages the immune system, even if you have not received treatment (for example, chronic leukemia, myeloma or lymphoma)
Cancer patients who are receiving treatment can be at higher risk because some therapies suppress the immune system, which usually lessens one’s ability to fight off the infection as efficiently as someone without cancer.
Your doctor or your local authorities may instruct you to self-isolate, even from other members of your household, to help reduce risks for you. During this time, you can rely on your telephone to contact friends and family for assistance, or your healthcare provider for advice. Online services are also very practical when it comes to arranging delivery of groceries and medication. Practicing respiratory hygiene, such as washing one’s hands with soap for at least 20-30 seconds and several times a day even when sequestered at home, remains essential.
If you are undergoing cancer treatment, your immune system may be suppressed therefore you may not experience the same early onset symptoms of Covid-19 as the general population.
The Covid-19 incubation period (time from exposure to onset of symptoms) is currently estimated at 4–6 days, although this may range to 2–14 days. Cases of Covid-19 are spread by both people who have symptoms as well as those who are considered “asymptomatic”, and who are infectious even though they do not have the classic symptoms.
You should contact your doctor if you think to experience symptoms of COVID-19. It is very important that you do not go directly to your doctor or hospital in order to avoid potential spread of the infection. Contact them first, either online or by telephone, and follow their instructions.
For further information, please check the ESMO (European Society of Medical Oncology) website.