April 9, 2020

Cancer Survivors and COVID-19

Photo of Cancer Survivors and COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that adults age 65+ years and those with serious medical conditions, including cancer, are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Many cancers – including Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemias and multiple myeloma - and cancer treatments like stem cell transplants, chemotherapies and radiation therapies, can weaken the body’s ability to fight infections. And research shows that the effects on the immune system of these cancers and treatments can linger long after treatments are completed. As a result, patients who are immunocompromised are deemed at higher risk, but all cancer survivors should take extra precautions to protect themselves from infection.

Protecting Yourself

Cancer survivors should follow the general public health recommendations from the CDC. Those include:

  • Practice social distancing by staying more than six feet away from others.
  • Do not gather with large numbers of people. Avoid crowds.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Avoid touching elevator buttons, door handles, handrails and other “high-touch” places.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Disinfect home and work surfaces.
  • Avoid touching your face as much as possible.
  • Isolate yourself at home, if someone in your household is ill.

Boost Your Immune System

To help boost your immune system, practice the following:

  • Sleep at least seven hours nightly.
  • Eat smart with plant-based, heart-healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean protein and healthy fats.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Manage stress.
  • Stay away from people who are ill.

Questions for Your Healthcare Provider

The American Cancer Society has developed the following list of questions for post-treatment survivors to ask their physicians:

  • Am I still at higher risk of getting coronavirus or COVID-19? Why or why not?
  • Are there special precautions I should be taking? If so, for how long?
  • How much do I need to stay at home? Can I run errands like going to the store?
  • Can I go to work? Should my caregiver go to work?
  • Do you think I can delay my upcoming check-up, follow-up test, or cancer screening until a later time?
  • Is there a chance I can be exposed to coronavirus if I come for follow-up tests or appointments?
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