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What Cancer Patients Should Know About Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19 is having a huge impact on people worldwide, including cancer patients and their caregivers. Cancer patients are among those identified as being high risk because their immune system is compromised by their cancer and its treatment. It’s important that all cancer patients, whether currently in treatment or not, talk to their health care providers.

What Can I Do To Protect Myself?

What we hear on the news about the outbreak changes daily, sometimes even hourly. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have made recommendations that we all can do to help in lowering our risk of contracting COVID-19 and decrease the spread:

  • Stay home as much as possible and avoid gatherings in groups of more than 10 people
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Do this frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds but if soap and water are not readily available, use alcohol based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Keep your distance. Try to maintain 6 feet between you and others, especially those who are sick.
  • Cover your cough with a tissue or your elbow
  • Avoid shaking hands
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using regular household cleaning sprays or wipes
  • Take advantage of telehealth services to “see” your physician, if appropriate
  • Avoid non-essential travel

What are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 can occur 2-14 days after exposure. You should contact your doctor by phone if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Some patients may have diarrhea or nausea before these symptoms occur.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Body aches and pains
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat

If you or your caregiver are experiencing any of the following serious signs and symptoms of COVID-19, get medical attention right of away:

  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Constant pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or being hard to wake
  • Bluish lips or face
  • High Fever

How Does the Coronavirus Spread?

According to the CDC, the virus spreads primarily from person-to-person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the virus can spread through respiratory droplets by reaching the mouths or noses of people in close contact (within approximately 6 feet). The droplets may also land on surfaces, which someone may touch and could potentially lead to being infected.

What Should I Do About Receiving My Cancer Treatment?

If you are currently receiving treatment for your cancer, call your provider before your next appointment and follow their recommendations. The risk of missing a treatment or appointment should be weighed against the possibility of exposing the patient to COVID-19.

Some treatments and appointments can be safely delayed while others cannot. If you have a follow-up appointment, talk to your provider about the possibility of doing this via telehealth. If you are taking oral cancer medications, they may be able to be sent to you directly.

What Should I Do if I Am On a Cancer Clinical Trial?

If you are currently participating or receiving treatment through a clinical trial, please contact your clinical trial research person and follow their guidance.

Bottom line, experts are learning more about the virus every day and information changes almost daily. It is important to communicate with your provider, know the symptoms of COVID-19 and report to your provider if you have any, and protect yourself by following the guidelines.

If you think you may be at risk, take our questionnaire.

For more information, see the CHI Health coronavirus page or go to

Dana Welsh, RN, BSN, OCN
Dana Welsh, RN, BSN, OCN

Dana Welsh RN, BSN, OCN is the Supervisor of the Cancer Center at CHI Health Good Samaritan.

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