Among those constantly reminded to take extra precautionary measures to prevent coronavirus infection are persons living cancer. Patients with active cancer are classified as immune-compromised as their immune systems are often weakened by the disease and its treatments.
Although no systemic reports are available demonstrating higher COVID-19 incidence or asymptomatic infection among persons living with cancer, experts advise taking science-backed, proactive approach to cancer management.
According to MSD Philippines’ cancer advocacy campaign Hope From Within, the risk among cancer patients is based on the type of cancer they have, the type and timing of treatment, underlying health conditions, and the age of the patient.
Talk to your oncologist
“It’s important that all cancer patients and survivors, whether currently in treatment or not, talk with a doctor who understands their situation and medical history,” said the American Cancer Society.
Getting the right information can help ease a cancer patient, survivor, and caregiver’s worries. Instead of going to the clinic, Hope from Within suggests scheduling a consultation with the oncologist via videoconferencing or by phone.
“Remember that the cancer doctor is the only qualified person to make a risk/benefit assessment based on whether one’s case is high priority (the condition is life-threatening or unstable, or the survival rate/improvement in quality of life far outweighs the risks involved); medium priority (the patient’s situation is not critical but further delay could impact health outcomes); or low priority (the condition is stable enough to justify rescheduling after the pandemic eases or benefits from the treatment are almost non-existent),” Hope From Within said in a statement.
Prepare and plan
Plenty of verified information are now available for every patient and caregiver’s consumption. But the most vital thing they should learn, experts say, is recognizing the symptoms of coronavirus infection, which include fever, cough, sore throat, breathing problems, muscle pain, tiredness, loss of the sense of smell, and impaired sense of taste.
Cancer patients experiencing fever and/or came in contact with someone who has coronavirus must consult their doctor over the phone so they can be advised how and where to proceed.
“The possibility must be considered, and evaluation should not be performed at the oncology center given the risk it may pose to cancer patients and the treatment staff.”
Since caregivers are likewise in danger of contracting coronavirus, acting quickly is of paramount importance. Identify whom to contact, and who else is available to support the patient in place of the caregiver.
Obtain distance assistance
Caregivers may want to consider seeking remote help because of additional precautionary responsibilities and the current quarantine situation.
Take advantage of online grocery and medicine delivery services, enlist help when updating concerned persons on the status of the patient, and assign another person to contact healthcare providers since cancer centers may have new guidelines concerning the number of visitors and the age of caregivers.
It is imperative that the caregiver is also practicing self-care to help boost their immune system.
Incorporate preventive and healthy habits
Guidelines of the World Health Organization must be observed to lower the chances of acquiring the respiratory disease.
Much like everyone else, it is best for patients and caregivers to avoid crowds and practice social distancing from relatives and friends exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or living in areas where there is continuing incidence of the illness.
Regular and proper hand washing remains one of the best precautions against coronavirus. Cancer patients making hospital visits and treatments are recommended to wear personal protective equipment.
The National Foundation for Cancer Research advises to have a sanitizing area dedicated to changing clothes and shoes before walking around the house and to have separate outfits when going outside and staying in.
In addition, cancer patients must keep in mind the customized recommendations of their oncologists to improve their immune system. These may include having optimum sleep, proper hydration, avoiding tobacco products, and eating a balanced diet rich in protein, fruits, and vegetables which can provide the body with tools to prevent and fight coronavirus infection.
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