What does coronavirus mean for cancer patients?
Friday, March 27, 2020 – An astounding 39.3% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer sometime during their lifetime. During this global health crisis, those who are receiving treatment for cancers of any kind are at high risk for serious illness or death due to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. Remaining calm and taking smart precautions is more important than ever, and we’re here to help.
OnderLaw represents tens of thousands of people who have been diagnosed with cancer due to exposure to asbestos, glyphosate, and dozens of other toxic and dangerous products and medications. The National Cancer Institute has issued guidelines for those with cancer that can and will save lives. In addition, the CDC is updating its website regularly with information about the virus. We’d like to pass along these recommendations to protect you and your family.
We urge all of our clients to err on the side of caution when it comes to COVID-19. If possible, stay home and stay safe, including and especially those who are fighting cancer.
Commonly asked questions include:
I have cancer. What does the coronavirus threat mean for me?
Cancer and its treatments, including chemotherapy, take a significant toll on your body’s immune system, leaving you at risk for infections and for becoming more sick when infections occur. Both adults and children with cancer are at higher risk for experiencing serious complications from COVID-19 and other contagious illnesses. It is far better to be overcautious than to fail to take precautions.
How can I keep myself from getting infected by coronavirus?
Those with cancer have even more reason to take precautions that all Americans are being urged to observe.
Stay home. Avoid social gatherings, and avoid person-to-person contact whenever possible, and avoid touching your face. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve instead of your hand, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap after using the restroom, coming into contact with others or with public devices such as gas pumps or debit/credit card readers, and get a flu vaccination.
Further, be particularly vigilant when it comes to friends or family members you come into contact with. Treat everyone as if they could be a carrier of the virus. Those who come into your house should change clothes and shower before sitting down or doing anything else in your home or space, and if possible, they should wear a facemask in your presence for your protection. Shoes should be removed outside the door.
Are delivered food and groceries safe?
The FDA has issued guidelines that indicate the food supply, including groceries, are safe. It does not recommend wiping cans down with Lysol or other disinfectant, or using soaps or other sanitizers on produce or other food. It does recommend cleaning and sanitizing all food preparation surfaces and utensils, and in cleaning utensils thoroughly with soap after use.
Take advantage of contact-free delivery options when possible. Set up a table or space on your porch for grocery and restaurant delivery services. Most services, including PostMates, GrubHub, and InstaCart, are following no-contact delivery protocols.
How can I best prepare myself from this outbreak?
It cannot be said too often: stay at home. Keep several weeks of medications and supplies on hand. Avoid any and all non-essential travel, and avoid crowds.
Talk with your healthcare provider and plan how you can reach him or her in the event of an emergency — and how they can reach you.
Create an emergency plan with your family, friends, and neighbors. Here is a great guide for what to include.
Create a personal plan for yourself and keep it in an easily accessible place:
- Keep an ongoing document of your exact diagnosis, the stage your cancer is in, and what medications you are taking. Also document where you are in your treatment cycle, if you are currently being treated with chemotherapy. This can help emergency workers and save time for hospital staff, should you have a medical emergency.
- Keep contact information handy for family members and your primary healthcare providers.
- If you are currently part of a clinical trial, document the National Clinical Trial (NCT) number, the principal investigator, the names of any medical facilities where you are receiving treatment, and the treatment name and dose you are receiving.
- Make a copy of your insurance card and keep it with your emergency plan.
Is it safe for me to receive my cancer treatments at a medical facility?
Some but not all cancer treatments can be delayed, or alternative treatments may be an option. Telemedicine may be an option, and your medications may be able to be administered at home.
Your doctor must determine if the risks of not receiving your regular treatment outweigh the risks of exposure. If you haven’t already, talk to your primary healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your unique situation.
The good news is that most cancer treatment centers are going to extreme measures to keep staff and patients safe. However, the situation is changing rapidly in many places throughout the country. Contact your healthcare provider prior to your next treatment and follow their recommendations regarding your treatment.
What if I am in a clinical trial?
The federal government has stepped up recently to enact revised guidelines for clinical trials due to the coronavirus outbreak. Patient safety is an utmost concern. If you are involved in a clinical trial, call your research team contact to determine how to proceed.
I feel overwhelmed. Who can I talk to?
Many people who are not fighting cancer have struggled with the financial, physical, and emotional stresses caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s only natural that you may feel even more vulnerable, depressed, or powerless. Taking preventative actions certainly can help, but it can also be helpful to talk to someone — and to be heard, validated, and reassured.
Don’t be afraid to reach out. Seeking help is a sign of strength. Family members, friends, spiritual leaders, healthcare providers, counselors, and therapists are all great to talk with, but if you feel like you don’t have relationships or resources to turn to, there are other ways to reach out.
Looking for ways to stay connected? Check out this article for ideas.
Disaster Distress Helpline
1-800-985-5990, or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a crisis counseling hotline established for those struggling with emotional distress caused by natural or human-caused disasters.
SAMHSA National Helpline
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a national helpline that is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service in English and Spanish for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY
If you’re unable to speak safely, log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
At OnderLaw, we’re continuing to serve our clients while doing our best to keep our team safe. Together, we will all get through this difficult time. We encourage you to take care of yourself and your loved ones so that, when the threat has passed, we will all emerge stronger than ever.