Coronavirus/COVID-19: What Cancer Patients, Caregivers, and Survivors Need to Know

According to a story from LocalHealthGuide, COVID-19 has continued to spread through the US and the lackluster government response suggests that it isn’t going to be contained any time soon. A variety of patient groups and demographics appear to be at higher risk for infection, and the latest data from China indicates that group includes cancer patients as well. 

Who is Vulnerable?

Cancer patients that are most at risk primarily include those who immune systems have been weakened in some way. This includes almost all patients with blood cancers of varying sorts, such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, acute myeloid leukemia, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. People with related diseases are also vulnerable. Cancer patients that are in the midst of active treatment, such as bone marrow transplant recipients and those receiving chemotherapy, also have weakened immune systems and are at heightened risk. 

With that being said, patients who are out of treatment still face a higher risk as well. The unfortunate reality is that it can take some time for a patient’s immune system to get back to full strength following treatment. Signs of a weakened immune system state include low white blood cell counts or using drugs that weaken the immune system, such as prednisone.

Data from China

In a study of 2007 COVID-19 patients from China, 18 of them had a history of cancer. While this may seem like a small number, these patients often did not respond well to infection and were at a greater risk of “severe events” such as needing breathing assistance or death. These patients had worse overall outcomes.

Despite these concerns, cancer patients should still do their best to keep to their schedule of treatment and doctor visits UNLESS they are experiencing symptoms of infection. If you think you are starting to develop symptoms, call your provider. Additionally, if someone in your household gets sick, isolate them in a single room of the house, clean all commonly used surfaces, and absolutely do not bring them with you to appointments.

If you must enter public places or use public transit, avoid high traffic areas and keep your distance from others, especially if they seem sick. Cancer patients should also try to take measures to boost their immune systems, such as getting plenty of sleep, avoiding stress, eating well, and exercising.


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