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Guidelines for Cancer Patients Visiting Medical Facilities for Treatment During COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 infection cases are increasing across the country, and it is becoming increasingly evident that the infection is likely to spread further.

If you are a cancer patient, you need to be extra careful with precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19 infection due to your compromised immune system. Other vulnerable groups include the elderly and those with underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease.

Who are at Higher Risk?

Cancer patients who are receiving treatment are at greater risk for complications from COVID-19. These include:

  • Patients undergoing active chemotherapy
  • Patients undergoing immunotherapy or other ongoing antibody based treatments for cancer
  • Patients undergoing other targeted cancer treatments that can affect immune system, like PARP inhibitors or protein kinase inhibitors
  • Patients getting intensive radiotherapy for lung cancer
  • Patients who have had stem cell or bone marrow transplant in the last six months, or who are still on immunosuppression drugs
  • Patients with hematologic malignancies, like lymphoma and multiple myeloma, acute and chronic leukemias

Guidelines for Patients Receiving Cancer Treatment at Medical Facility

  • Call your health care provider or the treating doctor before going to your next treatment appointment and follow their guidance
  • Postpone avoidable routine follow-up consultations
  • Use Tele-calling/Telemedicine for a doctor consultation (if required)
  • Carry appropriate documents from your healthcare provider or the treating doctor (If you have to visit a medical facility for treatment), so you are not restrained while travelling to the hospital
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Always wear a mask while travelling
  • Practice personal hygiene, rigorously
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; and before and after coming in contact with others
  • Practice social distancing
    • Stay at least 6-feet (two arm’s length) from anyone
    • Avoid large social gatherings and close contact with people who are sick
    • Avoid unnecessary person-to-person contact, such as handshakes
    • Preferably stay in isolation in your room

While at Medical Facility

  • Your care team is available for you to contact at any time and clarify all doubts
  • You may not be allowed visitors at the hospital
  • Check with your doctor on scheduled sessions of chemotherapy and radiation therapy and ascertain if they need to be rescheduled.
  • In case you have to come back to your medical facility for treatment, seek a letter or appropriate documents to carry with you so that you are not restrained while travelling to your medical facility
  • Make a note of important contact numbers including facilities for Tele consultations from your medical facility in case you are unable to travel

Conclusion

As all health care providers are adjusting their activities to address COVID-19, physicians treating cancer patients may also have to change when and how cancer therapy and follow-up visits can be carried out. Your physicians will decide and weigh the risk of missing a cancer treatment or medical appointment against the potential exposure of a patient to COVID-19 infection.

For those undergoing Chemotherapy or Radiation Therapy, unless they are exposed/showing symptoms of COVID-19 or tested positive, they should continue their treatment and do not change any schedule of reporting back to the facility for treatment

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