Cancer patients are one of those most susceptible to be infected by the coronavirus.
According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States alone, there are an estimated 1.8 million new cancer patients this year. But because of the pandemic, there is a great dilemma as to whether cancer patients should continue their treatment.
Dangers Of COVID-19 To Cancer Patients
Cancer patients who will contract the virus have a higher risk of being admitted to ICU than those who do not have the disease. COVID-19 is life-threatening for them. This is because those living with cancer, especially patients undergoing chemotherapy, are known to have a compromised immune system.
Chemotherapy treatment depletes the white blood cells causing to weaken the immune system. Among those who have cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that 650,000 patients undergo chemotherapy.
Increased Exposure To Covid-19
The dilemma lies in whether the treatment should continue or delay it. It is a difficult choice to make since time is of the essence for cancer patients. The more time elapses, the more serious the illness gets.
Also, the most significant barrier probably is not knowing how long will the pandemic last.
On the other hand, pushing through with the cancer treatment may increase the patient’s exposure to the virus.
As the treatment itself contributes to the weakening of the immune system and considering the frequency of hospital visit a treatment need, the patient then will have a higher chance of contracting the virus.
Factors To Consider
In deciding whether to continue or postpone the treatment, there are several factors to consider. These factors include the type of chemotherapy, cancer stage, and how risky the recurrence will be if the treatment gets delayed.
The oncologist can help cancer patients weigh these factors and the risks to decide what the next step should be.
Should Treatments Continue?
A thorough assessment is essential in deciding whether the treatment should carry out despite the risk of exposure.
For most doctors, advise continuing with the procedure. The life expectancy of a person, especially those dealing with late stages of cancer, is dependent on the treatment. For them, it’s important to suppress the spread of malignant cells earlier to prevent further complications.
As to the risk of exposing the patients to the virus, doctors say that there are a lot of precautions to take to minimize the risk. If precautions are observed seriously, cancer patients can dodge the illness.
Precautions Against COVID-19
- Avoid Non-Essential Travel
Just like everyone, cancer patients especially should stay at home. Staying indoors reduces exposure to other people who are potential carriers of the virus.
It’s challenging to identify who has the virus since there are asymptomatic patients. Meaning, someone can feel their full health but still carry the virus. So, don’t be too complacent.
- Observe Strict Social Distancing
As a cancer patient undergoing treatment, there are instances when you had to leave home. In cases like these, always observe 6 ft distance from other people. Since the virus transmits through droplets, maintaining this safe distance reduces the risk of contracting the virus.
- Always Wear A Mask
When leaving your house, always wear a mask. The mask protects both yourself and others.
In instances where there is no social distancing, and someone accidentally sneezes, having a cover on will keep you protected. With enough distance and a mask, there is a little chance of getting infected by the virus. Remember that the mask goes over the nose, not only in the mouth.
- Wash Your Hands Thoroughly
It’s crucial to keep in mind always to wash your hands thoroughly. Since the virus has this fatty outer layer, experts say that it is best to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
In cases wherein you are outdoors, and there is no access to clean water and soap, using alcohol and sanitizer on your hands will do. Also, refrain from touching your face with unclean hands.
If you are among the cancer patients having the dilemma of whether to continue your treatment, we hope that this article has helped you assess your situation and make the decision.