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Cancer and COVID-19: A Guide
With thanks to advocate and guest blogger, Claire Thevenot. Find Claire’s advocacy profile here: Clarity Patient Advocates “COVID cancer sucks,” my client said. She discovered a cancerous lump in her breast a couple of weeks ago and has had to go through the many initial appointments amid the chaos, isolation, and uncertainty of COVID-19. As if a cancer diagnosis isn’t daunting enough, dealing with cancer in a pandemic setting is especially frightening and challenging. If you’ve received a recent cancer diagnosis or are undergoing treatment, you may be wondering how the virus might affect you. As a patient advocate, I’m here to demystify the reality of coronavirus for cancer patients. As a Cancer Patient, Am I More Susceptible to COVID-19? Cancer patients are generally considered at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 because they often have weakened immune systems due to the disease process itself or because of the toxic effects of treatment. In addition, they are at risk for more serious complications from the virus. Two recent studies, one out of Wuhan, China, and one out of New York City, compared a sample of COVID patients with cancer to COVID patients without cancer. Both studies found that those with cancer were more likely to experience severe complications such as pneumonia, ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, and death. In the Chinese study, patients with hematological cancer, lung cancer, or stage-IV cancer were at the highest risk. Other factors shown to increase likelihood of complications include recent surgery or immunotherapy or other co-morbidities like lung disease, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, or advanced age. Early data suggests that patients who have a history of cancer but are not currently undergoing treatment are also at increased risk of severe complications, although experts are still trying to quantify that risk. Along with physiological factors, cancer patients may be coping with additional stressors related to the pandemic. The general fear of contracting COVID is compounded by having more contact with the healthcare system. On top of that, worries over diagnosis or treatment delays and the possibility of a loss of income or insurance coverage given current events can cause even more stress, further exacerbating vulnerability. How Can I Minimize My Risk of Contracting Coronavirus? The goal of patients and their families regarding coronavirus should be prevention. It’s as simple as diligently following the guidelines that apply to everyone else: Practice social distancing Wash hands frequently Avoid touching…