Wednesday 18 March, 2020

Corona / COVID-19 and Cancer

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Corona / COVID-19 and Cancer – five things you’re wondering about coronavirus and cancer.
If you have been impacted by cancer you likely often think about how to remain healthy. Since even a mild cold can result in a hospital visit – you are rightfully nervous about how the coronavirus could impact you. Here are some simple tips to keep healthy and safe, shared by Dr Amydee Morris, Oncology Pharmacist and member of the War On Cancer app. 

1) What are the best things to do to keep myself healthy during Corona / Covid19 and cancer?
This is a common question from people with cancer but even more common now. You’ve heard it before but I’m saying it again. Wash your hands. Wash them well and do it frequently. It seems simple but it works. Also, avoid other people. In many areas, large gatherings are being banned but it would also be wise to avoid members of your extended family or close friends. The fewer people you can expose yourself to, the better chance you have of staying healthy.

2) What “immune boosting” products should I take?
Many products that promote immune boosting properties contain antioxidants. If you are receiving treatment for cancer, antioxidants can interact with many types of treatment, making the treatment less effective at targeting the cancer. Obviously, something you want to avoid. It is best to avoid taking extra supplements during this time (especially since there are no supplements shown to prevent or treat coronavirus).

3) Should I wear a face mask during Corona / Covid19?
Face masks are a hot commodity right now – but you likely don’t need to wear one. You only need to wear a face mask if you have symptoms yourself (e.g. coughing, sneezing). Wearing a mask when you are sick prevents or lessen your germs from spreading to others. If you are not sick – a face mask will not protect you from those who are. These types of masks are not designed to keep germs out. Wearing a surgical mask also requires you to touch your face and if you aren’t used to wearing one, you might find you are fidgeting and touching your face – a lot. This promotes the spread of germs so wearing a face mask might actually cause more harm than good.

4) I’m not currently receiving treatment; do I still have a compromised immune system?
Obviously, cancer treatment knocks down your immune system. Those with blood cancer or stem cell transplants have the most weakened immune systems and for the longest period of time. But what if it has been months or years since you had treatment – is your immune system still compromised? Although studies haven’t been completed in all types of cancer treatment, a small study in breast cancer patients showed that it takes around 9 months for your immune system to fully recover. If it has been more than 9 months since your last treatment, you likely are not considered immunocompromised but do keep in mind that it is always on a case by case and you should consult your doctor or health care professional to understand what the case may be for you specifically.

5) How can I maintain my support system during isolation of Corona / Covid19?
There is so much talk of “social distancing” and it can feel very isolating and lonely. This is awful when you are going through treatment. You need that support so use technology to your advantage. The War on Cancer app is a great way to continue to connect with people around the world who have been impacted by cancer. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, we still need to connect, we still need to talk about cancer, we still need community.

Hope those answers help.
Dr. AmydeePharmD

About Dr Amydee Morris
Amydee is an Oncology Pharmacist, Cancer Survivor, Clinician, Educator and Mom. Connect with @amydeepharmd in the War On Cancer app

References: public
Ladas, Elena J et al. Antioxidants and cancer therapy: a systematic review. Journal of clinical oncology 2014: Vol.22(3); 517-528 ncov%2Fabout%2Fprevention.html s13058-015-0669-x

The information shared does not constitute a medical consultation and is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with your doctor or other qualified health provider for questions regarding a medical condition especially during the active period of Corona / Covid19. Please do not disregard professional health provider advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.  In the event of a medical emergency, call a doctor, 112 or 911 immediately.

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