There is no country or section of society that is being spared from COVID 19. A lot has been said about the high risk that the elderly or those with other medical conditions face, but one group which is always at high risk and whose problems have not been given due prominence, is cancer patients. Understanding the special needs of cancer patients, leading international health organizations have developed some preliminary guidelines that these patients need to be aware of.
- People undergoing chemotherapy have weakened immune systems and this leaves them more prone to getting infections. To minimize the chances of being infected, patients should avoid going to the hospital and use electronic communications platforms like email, Skype, WhatsApp or the telephone to communicate with their doctors and other healthcare providers. Visits to the hospital or other medical facilities open to the public should be only as a last resort.
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- Elective surgery of all kinds, including cancer-related procedures, have been suspended all over the world to keep treatment facilities available for COVID 19 patients. If you are scheduled for an elective procedure you should talk to your doctor about other treatment options including radiation therapy, oral chemotherapy or targeted therapy, either to replace the surgery or to provide the required medical support until such time as undergoing the surgery is again an option.
- If you are undergoing chemotherapy, you are highly susceptible to all kinds of viral infections. Your weakened immune system means that there is a strong possibility of the infection being extremely severe. You must exercise with utmost care to avoid not just COVID 19 but any possibility of infection. Know the symptoms of COVID 19 and if any develop, contact your doctor without delay. Once again, using electronic media should be the first step and a visit to the hospital done only if asked to by the doctor or if there is no other option.
- If you are undergoing radiation therapy, you are also at risk of being infected. It is of the utmost importance that you follow the well-publicized COVID 19 prevention measures such as social distancing, isolation (if required) and being very careful about personal hygiene, especially washing the hands.
- If a cancer patient contracts COVID 19 the accepted protocol is to stop the cancer treatment and begin treatment, as prescribed by the doctor, for the infection. If you are diagnosed with COVID 19 your doctor will most likely stop all therapy until the COVID 19 infection is treated. Cancer therapy can begin once the COVID 19 problem is resolved.
- The American Cancer Society has given a list of COVID 19 symptoms, which normally appear between 2 to 14 days after the initial infection. These include:
- A fever of 38 Degrees C (100.4 Degrees F)
- Shortness of breath
- Body ache
- Nasal congestion
- A sore throat
- A runny nose
- A loss of the sense of smell or taste
If the infection has progressed the symptoms may also include:
- Constant pressure or pain in the chest
- Mental confusion
- Being hard to wake up from sleep
- Bluish lips or face
Also Read: What Is The Difference Between Radiation Therapy And Chemotherapy?
These guidelines may be modified in the future. Your doctor will be able to provide you with any updates. The super-specialty Kauvery Hospital has an Oncologists in Trichy – Tennur, highly trained doctors and the most advanced treatment facility to provide complete care for cancer patients, including those who may have contracted COVID 19.
Cancer patients should not allow the COVID 19 pandemic to increase their stress and anxiety levels as this burden will have a negative effect on their mental and physical health. It must be accepted that the COVID 19 risk is higher but with the right precautions being taken, there is no need to allow the prevailing global health crisis to affect the way they are dealing with their condition.