Cancer, Coronavirus, and Care That Can Save Your Life
By Martha Michael
While the prospect of contracting COVID-19 occupies the thoughts of many Americans on a daily basis, there are other health issues that have fallen under the radar this year. Some people have overlooked their own symptoms of serious illness and put off treatment, while others have failed to notice the substantial pain a loved one is suffering from a diagnosis such as cancer.
Our attention has been trained on addressing the collateral damage from the coronavirus pandemic, such as making sure hospitals have enough personal protective equipment and feeding families who are out of work. But while new virus cases arise, so do threats of other health concerns such as cancer. In other words, the health issues that were with us before the pandemic are still with us.
Getting the News You Have Cancer
How well you accept a cancer diagnosis depends on your personal experiences, says an article by the National Cancer Institute. Your values play a part in how you cope with symptoms and determine some of the choices you make. Some cancer patients turn to the support of loved ones or counseling professionals, while other individuals tend to keep it to themselves to protect their families and friends from sharing the burden with them.
“Whatever you decide, it's important to do what's right for you and not to compare yourself with others,” the article says. “Your friends and family members may share some of the same feelings. If you feel comfortable, share this information with them.”
Some of the most natural reactions to a cancer diagnosis are:
Diagnosis and Treatment of Non-COVID Illnesses
An article by NPR says there is increasing evidence that people are failing to seek emergency assistance due to fears of contracting the coronavirus. Visits to the ER for cardiovascular problems have dropped and patients have died because they waited too long to report symptoms. From April 1-15, 2020 the hospital at the University of Washington saw a 60 percent drop in the admission rate for patients suffering from strokes. Data from some cities estimate that ER visits are down by nearly half the average number and statistics show a much lower 911 call volume.
For cancer patients and survivors, extra caution is a necessary standard when it comes to the threat of the coronavirus. In all likelihood, a patient who received cancer treatment in the distant past will have adequate immune function to survive infection, but it varies among individuals. A cancer patient who is currently receiving chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant may have a compromised immune system and, therefore, be in greater risk of contracting coronavirus. People at risk need to consult with their caregivers to take maximum precautions against exposure.
Another result of the pandemic is the delay in treatment for non-COVID illnesses such as cancer surgeries, which can have fatal consequences. According to an article by the American Cancer Society, protocols such as spatial distancing and the use of face masks have been put in place at clinics and medical centers to make patients feel more confident about receiving cancer treatment, which may reduce this trend.
Preventing Exposure to COVID-19
There are some things you can do to reduce your chances of contracting COVID-19.
- Hygiene - Be sure to wash hands for 20 seconds or more throughout the day, especially after you’ve touched something that has been exposed to others or been in environments with other people. Use soap and water or a sanitizer made up of at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Minimize face touching - By keeping your hands from touching your nose, mouth, and eyes, you reduce the chance of the virus entering your body.
- Spatial distancing - Also called social distancing, remaining six feet from others will lower the risk of passing COVID-19 from one individual to another.
- Masks - Wear a cloth face covering when around other people as a barrier to the cross contamination of droplets that can carry the virus.
- Stay home - If you have physical symptoms of any illness, stay at home unless you need medical care.
- Clean surfaces - Keep a disinfectant on hand to wipe down surfaces daily and after use. Don’t forget handles for doors, faucets, toilets, stoves, and refrigerators.
- Avoid travel - You’ll reduce your chance of contracting the virus and getting sick by canceling travel plans and staying home.
In addition to avoiding exposure to the virus, cancer patients need to be aware of heightened risks to their health. Keep your medical professionals in close range, but also shore up your mental health support system because the need to fight on multiple fronts is an added stressor that threatens your overall wellness.
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