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COVID-19: Help for Cancer Patients and Caregivers

YES is receiving many questions from survivors and caregivers who are concerned and want to understand how to manage care and support during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  It is important for us to be cautious and, hopefully through our behaviors, prevent becoming infected. Be extra careful with regards to the sanitation of your hands, the good practice of social distancing, and avoid exposure to individuals who may be ill.

 

We encourage conversations.  Ask questions. Patients and caregivers with cancer should have ongoing communication with their oncologists for information about any changes in their treatment plan or how they should manage follow up labs, appointments, and procedures as well as what to do if there is a need for care in between these times.

 

To reduce infection, consider these tips:

• Avoid contact with people who are sick.

• Practice social distancing.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands aren't clean.

• Determine who can care for you if you become ill.

• Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Stay a minimum of 6 feet away from others, especially those who are sick.

• Stay away from groups of 10 or more people.

• Wear a cloth mask.  The CDC now recommends doing so in public, especially in places where it’s hard to maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and another person.

• Disinfect frequently touched items.

• Avoid nonessential travel.

• Use telehealth services for routine visits when possible.

 

TIPS FOR LIFE IN QUARANTINE:

 

Telemedicine

 

Many offices – across disciplines – are using telemedicine and video conferencing for appointments.  This allows visits and communication to continue without leaving home.t away. In some cases, the doctor can prescribe medicine and send those prescriptions to be filled at a location convenient to you.

 

Home Health

 

For many cancer patients, home health may be a good option for blood draws and personal visits without the patient or caregiver having to leave the safety and comfort of their own home.

 

Prescription Delivery and Medications

 

Contact your health care provider to ask about obtaining extra necessary medications in case you need to stay home for a prolonged period of time.

 

If you cannot get extra medications, consider using mail-order for medications.

 

Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies, such as tissues, to treat fever and other symptoms.

 

If you need medication and you don’t feel safe going to the pharmacy to pick it up, you have options. Delivery services can pick up your prescriptions and deliver them right to your door and mail order prescriptions may provide an additional measure of safety during the quarantine.

 

Food Delivery

 

Instacart and Shipt will deliver groceries to your door and many grocery chains are also offering delivery.

 

Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you will be prepared to stay at home for a period of time.

 

 

QUESTIONS and ANSWERS

 

Q: Why are people with a cancer diagnosis at a higher risk for COVID-19?

 

There are three reasons cancer may raise your risk:

 

Treatment suppresses the immune system.

 

Cancer may reduce organ function.

 

Cancers may affect immune function.

 

Q: How much will the risk increase for people who have cancer?

 

We don’t know yet. It is believed that people with active cancer, or those receiving immunosuppressive treatments, have the highest risk. Those who have undergone a bone marrow transplant may be at particularly high risk. Cancer survivors without evidence of active cancer and who aren’t receiving immune-suppressing treatments may have a lower risk.

 

Q: Will people with cancer have the same COVID-19 symptoms as the general population?

 

In general, yes, but not always. Cough and shortness of breath are common symptoms of COVID-19 infection and would be expected to be common in cancer patients with the infection as well. But people with cancer may not develop the high fever due to immune-suppressing treatments. So if a person has cancer and develops a cough and other respiratory symptoms, even without a fever, they should contact their provider.

 

Q: Do people with cancer need to take extra precautions?

 

They need to take the same precautions and be extra vigilant. Family members or anyone they are exposed to while isolating must also follow the precautions.

 

Q: What lifestyle recommendations do you have for people with cancer during isolation?

 

It is especially important for people who have cancer to prioritize healthy habits, such as:

 

Stay active:   If you’re isolated in your home, there’s a tendency to become sedentary, which is not great. It is important to keep moving. For example, march in place while you’re watching the newsGo for a walk, if you can avoid crowds.

 

Nutrition:  Sitting at home and absorbing a lot of doom-and-gloom reports can make you reach for the chips and chocolate. Avoid the urge and instead maintain healthy nutrition.

 

Sleep:   Getting enough quality sleep is key to maintaining optimal health. Quality sleep also helps keep stress levels under control.

 

Q: Should people with cancer continue to receive their treatments?

 

Patients need to discuss individual treatment plans with their provider. There are instances where treatments can be delayed, but if doctors deem a treatment necessary, then they will find ways to deliver it safely. Doctors and cancer centers are using innovative approaches, such as:

 

Fewer trips: Many centers are devising and using protocols that limit the number of treatments people receive in order to reduce trips to the cancer center.

 

Different treatment delivery: Doctors may choose a different treatment regimen, like using an oral chemotherapy or immuno-oncology medication over one delivered intravenously.

 

Virtual visits: Patients can often receive a routine evaluation through telemedicine.

 

Preventive measures:  Centers are limiting visitors and screening everyone for fever, cough or symptoms. They may also have fewer people receiving treatment at one time.

 

Q: What does this mean for those who haven’t yet started cancer treatment?

 

The uncertainty is one of the challenges we’re dealing with — we don’t know if this is going to last for weeks or months. Cancer centers are actively developing guidelines to ensure that we can safely receive treatments.

 

Doctors will consider many factors, including the stage and type of cancer (some are slow-growing), to determine the next steps of your care. They’ll also make adjustments they feel are safe. For example, your doctor may delay surgery and instead use a non-immunosuppressive treatment, or choose an oral chemotherapy or immune-oncology drug to limit your trips to the cancer center.

 

Talk with your doctor about any concerns you have.

 

Q.  I have lost my job and can no longer pay my co-pay.  What can I do?

 

Many patients and their caregivers are facing this dilemma.  Thankfully, pharmaceutical companies have stepped up to help.  For example, Bristol Myers Squibb released important information for families.

 

Others have done the same.  Ask your oncologist for assistance or reach out to YES for direction.

 

Q.  It is harder than ever to feel supported.  I’m lonely and afraid.  Is there help?

 

Absolutely!  Call our Survivor Line at 877-937-7478 and we can match you with a FRIEND for your Journey and also connect you with virtual resources.  You are not alone!

 

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The information presented in this Website is not intended as a substitute for medical care. Please talk with your healthcare provider about any information you get from this Website.

Thank you to Amgen, Bristol-Meyers Squibb,Eisai, Genentech, Lilly, Sirtex,Taiho and Wako,

 for your support in 2020

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