Cancer Treatment During COVID-19 Pandemicadmin
(As presented by dr Walta Gautama SpB(K)Onk on YKPI Breast Cancer Webinar Series)
There are so many information about how coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) could potentially affect the health and cancer care of people diagnosed with cancer. So many clinical questions frequently asked about how danger COVID-19 to cancer patients and survivors.
If a person is about to start cancer therapy, should they consider postponing treatment due to COVID-19? What if the patient has been infected with COVID-19?vCan we go to hospital ?
How about the risk that COVID-19 poses to patients with cancer?
“Cancer patients face new challenges during COVID-19 pandemic. But CANCER is no less important than COVID-19,” said dr Walta.
We know that not every patient with cancer has a compromised immune system. For some patients who come in every couple weeks for chemotherapy, they have to postpone due to hospitals policy or regulations. The reasons are the hospitals need to minimize the number of patients from coming into the medical facilities, having to travel, having to take transportation, social distancing policy, etc. In brief, mostly the medical staff or hospital management trying to minimize all those patient encounters, where they could potentially get exposed to the virus.
We also found patients are scared that their cancer is going to get worse during this time of the crisis. They’re scared that they’re going to die of COVID-19. They consider that most of them are not at an immediate risk of dying of cancer, but they very well could be at an immediate risk of dying of COVID-19 if they get it.
But as long as patients or cancer survivors follow the general public health recommendations issued by the government, according to dr Walta there is no specific reason to postpone their cancer treatment in hospital.
“There are many factors to consider when making an important decision such as postponing cancer treatment in order to avoid a potential infection with COVID-19,” added dr Walta.
Patients should talk with their treating oncologist about the risks of postponing treatment versus the potential benefit of decreasing their infection risk. Things to discuss include the goals of cancer treatment, the likelihood that the cancer will be controlled with the treatment being planned, the intensity and side effects of the cancer treatment, and the supportive care that is available to reduce the side effects of treatment.
“If on active cancer treatment, then patients should contact their treating oncologist by phone and make any arrangements as needed. Also for cancer survivors, if they want to postpone their treatment, it would be better to communicate with their primary care doctor first and reschedule their treatment as needed,” continue dr Walta.
Welcome New Normal, Goodbye Pandemic
Cancer patients must learn to treat the post-COVID-19 world as a ‘new normal,’ and remain focused on what they need to do to manage their illness within it. Please making sure patients are protecting themselves and social distancing.
“I tell my patients they should follow health protocol by frequently washing their hands with soap and water at least 30 seconds, wearing a mask whenever they go out and keeping social distance and of course to contact their oncologist,” said dr Walta again.
Things like keeping social distance, frequent and proper hand washing, use an alcohol-based hand rub when soap and running water are unavailable, not touching your face when your hands are not thoroughly washed, wearing mask, wearing glove, avoiding large crowds, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, keeping surfaces clean and disinfected, staying at home if sick, practicing good respiratory etiquette including covering coughs and sneezes, are all good strategies for anyone, but maybe even more important for cancer patients and survivors who may be immune compromised.