Cancer Patients and COVID-19: 3 Things You Should be Aware of

Posted on June 11, 2020

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (or COVID-19) is an infectious respiratory illness. COVID-19 and flu symptoms can appear to be similar but are caused by different viruses.

Coronavirus can cause mild illnesses and manifest as the common cold, but it can also be much more severe and cause serious diseases. This virus is also known as SARS-CoV-2, due to its relation to the SARS-associated coronavirus.

COVID-19 symptoms range from shortness of breath, cough and fever to diarrhea, sore throat, runny nose, pains, and aches, among other symptoms that become apparent as we grow more familiar with the disease. If you have cancer or other pre-existing conditions, here’s what you should know.

1.    Information and best practices are still in flux

Both cancer patients and those with other severe medical conditions are at a higher risk for complications when contracting the virus. That being said, the same rules apply for all, with or without cancer, given that best practices are ever-evolving as we learn more about the virus.

It’s imperative to wash your hands as frequently as you can. Practice social distancing and avoid close contact as well as touching your face. Avoid traveling, and always have a two-week supply of your essential medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

Create an emergency list of contacts that includes neighbors, friends, and family that you can contact in case of any emergency. Use phone calls and video chats to stay connected to your support system.

Get in touch with your oncologist to reschedule your cancer treatments during the outbreak, if needed. You can also schedule some cancer treatments using telemedicine or video conferencing, and in any case, always stay in touch with your doctors to make sure you can get the care you need.

2.    Oncologists across the U.S. apply varied approaches

Since the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is very high, oncologists have been forced to change their visitation policies. Across the U.S., doctors practice various approaches to ensure that their patients get a fair share of necessary medications and treatments.

Some don’t allow visitors, while others may allow one visitor per patient for in-house treatments. If you have a medical appointment, check with your physician or hospital to learn their visitor policy. Also, expect that your cancer care appointments may switch to tele-medicine.  You can talk to your doctor either by phone or through video conferencing.

The various online options allow you to have an appointment without leaving the comfort and safety of your home.

3.    Therapy continuation depends on the cancer type and patient condition

Some treatments may be delayed, if your Oncologist feels it is of greater benefit to reduce risk of COVID-19 exposure. For instance, treatments such as intravenous iron supplementation or bone-strengthening treatments or similar supportive care may be temporarily postponed. But again, it all depends on your current health and condition.

You may also experience a reduction in cancer screening tests to avoid exposing yourself to any unnecessary risk. If you need your cancer treatments, talk to your doctor to see if you can still get your immunotherapy or chemotherapy medications.

Based on your treatment goals and cancer diagnosis, some oncologists may recommend delaying the start of these treatments. It all depends on your condition and cancer type.


It’s important to know that there are steps you can take to receive the proper cancer treatment during the coronavirus outbreak. You must stay in touch with your cancer care team and keep them updated on your current condition, so they’ll be able to offer the best recommendations in case an emergency strikes.

Is Cancer or Another Severe Medical Condition Causing You Pain?

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Our pain doctors are highly experienced in treating pain that results from all types of medical conditions, including cancer. We will work with your oncologist or other specialist as a partner in care to ensure that your pain AND your condition are being properly addressed.

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