With an exponential tsunami of Covid-19 positive cases, these unprecedented times have lead to the near-collapse of our healthcare system. With the current shortage of oxygen faced in many hospitals across, the country faces a national emergency causing most of our hospital resources to be directed towards Covid-19 care alone. Because of this, many of the non-Covid-19 emergencies such as myocardial infarction, stroke or cancer care have taken a back burner and life saving surgeries and treatments are getting difficult day by day.
With several restrictions from past year, it has become extremely difficult for patients from seeking treatments. In addition, there has been tremendous lagging and delay in regular follow ups, chemotherapies, unavailability of palliative care facilities, and an absence of cancer screening programs. In addition, there's fear among patients of getting infected with Covid-19 with hospital visits. In such a scenario there naturally are many queries among people.
Below are a few common facts for cancer care during the pandemic curated from the official website of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (USA) and news agency IANS:
If one had cancer now or had it in the past, are they at higher risk of getting COVID-19?
According to NIC, having cancer does increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. A weakened immune system, older age, and other medical conditions are some other factors that increase the risk. Furthermore, the website states, "people with blood cancers may be at higher risk of prolonged infection and death from COVID-19 than people with solid tumours. That is because these patients often have abnormal or depleted levels of immune cells that produce antibodies against viruses."
However, at this time, it is not known whether having a history of cancer increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Should one delay cancer treatment due to an increase in cases of Covid-19 in hospitals?
It depends on the stage of disease
- If one is at an early stage of cancer, local treatments such as surgery or radiation may be delayed slightly depending on the risk-benefit based on your general condition and the impact of these treatments on the patient.
- If there's chemotherapy planned, discuss with oncologist about options of increasing the duration between cycles, using baxter pumps to deliver chemotherapy at home which is possible in a few chemotherapy regimens (after considering safety issues) or consider switching to oral options where ever possible.
- If you are receiving palliative care, you can discuss options of "drug holidays" (where you temporarily stop treatment where ever feasible) and domiciliary care.
Should cancer patients get vaccinated with Covid-19 vaccine when undergoing chemotherapy?
While there are no safety trials for Covid-19 vaccine in cancer patients, a report in the news agency recommend patients to undergo vaccination as it is proven to be safe in other critical illnesses. However, if the patient has recently undergone chemotherapy or bone marrow transplant, it is recommended to wait till the immunity gets better.
What to do to decrease exposure in the hospital and reduce hospital visits?
Virtual follow up sessions should be held with doctors to avoid stepping out. In case one has to visit the hospital for a physical test, it is advisable to schedule things and avoid queues and crowd. A well fitted mask and maintaining 6-feet social distancing should be strictly followed.
How to cope with stress during these tough times?
Cancer treatment is itself very stressful and now patients are faced with additional fear of Covid-19. During these stressful periods, practice deep breathing exercises, gentle yoga, meditation and of course seek help from professional healthcare counsellors.
Disclaimer: This content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. For more information, please consult a doctor.