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IMPACT OF COVID 19 ON CANCER PATIENTS
As the COVID 19 pandemic evolves, scientists are learning more about the virus and how it affects us. From almost the beginning, medical experts have recognized that older adults and people with existing medical conditions — including few major diseases like heart disease, cancer, etc are at higher risk from the novel coronavirus. The recent outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) and the rate at which the infection is spreading may be worrying if you are a cancer patient or are a caregiver of a patient, your worries and fears may be multifold. But there is nothing to worry about, as coronavirus infections can be avoided if sufficient precautionary measures are taken.
With more than 36 years of experience in the field of Cancer, Padmashri, Dr. Ramakant Deshpande, Director of Asian Cancer Institute shares vital information regarding COVID-19 & Cancer and answers all relevant the queries asked by the audience (Click the link below to watch the video - https://www.facebook.com/106550060194591/videos/258652605528312)
The new coronavirus is a respiratory disease, meaning it mostly affects the lungs. But when the lungs aren’t working at full steam, the heart has to work harder to pump oxygen-rich blood around the body. That added stress can be dangerous for people as hemoglobin becomes completely useless for carrying its oxygen capacity.
Why is it important for a cancer patient to take extra care?
Data from different countries shows cancer patients are slightly at a higher risk than others. Cancer patients are thought to be immunocompromised in which the capacity to fight back the diseases is not enough as an average person. Along with immunocompromised cancer patients of an older age presence of other comorbidities like heart diseases, Heart attack, Diabetes also makes the fight back power comparatively weaker. If the cancer patient develops COVID – 19 infection the chances of organ related complication increases as some might have gone through treatment in terms of radiation therapy, or maybe kidney removal , or chemotherapy which automatically suppress the immunity.
Should cancer patients follow the same precaution as normal people?
General precautions like washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, wearing a mask, avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, practice social distancing, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, etc should be followed and not be skipped but along with these precautions there, treatment pattern also may change.
Cancer patients are divided into 3 categories:
- Patients under Maintenance Therapy
- Patients under Active therapy
- Patients being planned for the treatment
Patients who have completed the treatment and are cancer-free like breast cancer but they are on hormonal therapy are they more at risk of getting infected? Then your worry comes to an end. NO, there is no such incidence or study says that proves such kind of patients suffer more or are at higher risk. They can completely follow their normal routine with proper precautions and eliminate this fear. Patients who are actually undergoing treatment like induction phase of blood cancer which kills the entire bad cells from the blood such treatments cannot be postponed so with extra care and precautions and personal protective equipment (PPE) which will bring safety to the whole system should be maintained and treatment should be continued. Patients planning to go through breast cleaning programs or if the consultant feels there is no benefit of giving chemotherapy at an early stage then you can surely delay the same by 4 to 5 months till the time everything gets normal as the government is trying to flatten the curve of this pandemic which means reducing the cases and stopping them to increase the spread further.
Can patients skip the regular visit to the doctor to be at less risk of exposure?
As no of now no studies have proved that regular visit to doctors and follow-ups with them is really beneficial or advantageous, so one can avoid moving out for a regular check-up and screening but instead of that, you can do teleconsultations or virtual Internet consultation over the internet which has become legal now.
Difficulties faced currently
- Big Hospitals with about 300 beds are suddenly closed. Even if one single patient is tested positive or any staff member is tested positive then have to wait till it reopens after 14 – 20 days.
- Personal Protective equipment might not be available everywhere easily so we need to take care of that.
How many days of hospitalization is preferred post your surgery?
Dr. Deshpande says you should always prefer lesser stay in hospital after surgery 3 – 4 days and then you should take discharge. in developed countries charges are quite high compared to India so people prefer to stay for lesser period of time or But in India charges are comparatively less than other part of the world so, doctor advices to stay more so that extra care can be taken but in a situation like this you should minimize your stay as much as possible with while consulting your Doctor as no two patients are same.
What if you skip chemotherapy during this lockdown?
Ideally, you should never skip any chemo procedure but if you have missed it due to this lockdown you can’t really do anything. So normally up to 3 months, you can alter the treatment. If the gap increases more than 3 months, between 2 consecutive cycles than the therapeutic benefits are lost in you. So be in touch with your consultant and try arranging at a nearby hospital as per his guidance.
Precautions are taken by cancer surgeons during COVID 19
They prefer doing the COVID test of all the patients before starting any treatment by taking droplets from their mouth and nose which is then tested by specialists which have an accuracy of 60 – 70%. Also, there are various modifications done in treatment that all the cancer specialists’ will definitely know. There are some special procedures as well where chemotherapy is passed at a much higher degree so such patients are at higher risk so doctors do take extra care of such patients.
Hence as doctors say do not fear that if you are a cancer patient and you get tested positive you cannot recover. You can definitely recover with extra precautions and treatment but in comparison to normal people, you are at higher risk and should follow habits like wash hands frequently and maintain social distancing, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently, especially if you have to go out. There are lot of ways you can deal with isolation while making sure you are not close to people. These are the most vital elements to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Besides, pre-stock your medicines and be sure you are up-to-date with other household items including swipes, sanitizers, etc. Call your treating doctor or contact the nearest healthcare center immediately, if you feel you have any COVID-19 symptoms.