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Questions and Answers about COVID-19 for Cancer patients

March 21, 2020

I am a cancer patient. What should I do to protect myself from COVID-19?

Because cancer treatments weaken the body's immune system, cancer patients are among those at risk for serious illness from COVID-19. The CDC recommends that people at higher risk for COVID-19:

  • Take precautions to keep space between yourself and others. Avoid close contact with people who are sick and:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after visiting a public place.
    • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
    • Avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
    • Avoid shaking hands.
    • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home routinely.
    • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.
    • Avoid all non-essential travel including plane trips, and especially avoid cruise ships.
    • If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay home as much as possible and consider having food delivered.
  • Stock up on supplies:
    • If you take medication, contact your care team to ask about obtaining extra medication to have on hand in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community and you need to stay home for a prolonged period of time.
    • Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines, tissues and other medical supplies to treat fever and other symptoms. Most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.
    • Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you will be prepared to stay at home for a period of time.
  • Have a plan in case you get sick:
    • Talk to your care team for more information about monitoring your health for symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Stay in touch with others by phone or email. You may need to ask for help from friends, family, neighbors, or community health workers if you become sick.
    • Determine who can help you if your caregiver gets sick.
  • Watch for symptoms and emergency warning signs. Pay attention for potential COVID-19 symptoms including, fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call your healthcare provider to let them know. This will help them take care of you and keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs might include:

    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all-inclusive. Please seek medical attention for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Should I wear a face mask?

If you are a cancer patient, you should only wear a face mask if your care provider has recommended that you do so because you are at high risk for infection from causes other than COVID-19. If your care provider has not made this recommendation and you are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you should not wear a face mask.

Is the UHS Cancer Center limiting visitors?

Yes. To protect patients and staff, UHS Oncology will limit the number of visitors on its campuses while there is a threat of COVID-19 transmission. At this time, we are asking that cancer patients come alone to appointments if possible. If the patient cannot attend the appointment alone, we are asking that our cancer patients bring only one person over the age of 18 to outpatient appointments.

These restrictions may be difficult for patients and their loved ones, but UHS is taking this necessary step to protect patients and staff. Limiting the number of visitors is temporary and is being done to safeguard the health of all who come to UHS. This is especially important for cancer patients whose immune systems may be weakened due to treatment.

What to Expect: 

Please expect screening at all UHS Oncology locations for all patients and visitors. This will include an assessment of recent travel and contact history, temperature evaluation, as well as symptoms associated with COVID-19.

While we continue to provide care to our patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, some patients may be asked to reschedule their appointments. If there are changes to your care, you will be contacted by your care team.

All upcoming support group meetings have been cancelled at this time and further information regarding future support groups will forthcoming.