How can cancer patients stay safe?
Here are steps you can take while battling cancer during COVID-19
Carolyn Tillo Published: 4/1/2020
Protecting cancer patients is a priority during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. Cancer patients, especially those undergoing treatments that weaken their immune systems, are at a higher risk for complications from COVID-19.
But, they are also accustomed to overcoming adversity and taking unexpected challenges in stride.
From the time they get diagnosed, they have to practice social distancing and spend special days like birthdays and holidays in the hospital. They also experience financial hardships, whether they are an adult patient struggling to keep up with work or a parent who is trying to support their child’s cancer treatment.
“What cancer patients do all the time is what we’re asking the rest of the country to do now,” Dr. Katzenstein said. “A lot of what these cancer patients do is an inspiration. If they can do it, so can the rest of us.”
In addition to practicing social distancing, the CDC recommends that cancer patients:
- Wash their hands frequently (Practice the 5 Ws).
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
“We encourage our cancer patients to stay home and minimize visitors,” said Jennifer Crozier, MD, hematologist/oncologist at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center. “We are also reminding them, as we always do, to proactively take charge of their health by eating a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated.”
Baptist MD Anderson is taking precautions of its own, too. It is restricting visitation to one caregiver 18 or older for all patients, screening all who enter the center for symptoms of COVID-19, and postponing elective treatments and procedures as necessary.
Another helpful hint—focus on your mental health, too.
George P. Royal, Ph.D., Chief of Psychology at Baptist MD Anderson, suggests trying to limit the time spent reading or watching news about COVID-19, as this often heightens your anxiety. Instead, he says cancer patients, and anyone navigating the ever-changing COVID-19 situation, should follow the recommendations of their health care team to protect themselves and try some of the following steps to reduce stress and anxiety:
- Do things you enjoy to keep your mind occupied by engaging in activities that help you relax. This may include listening to music, reading a good book, doing yoga or meditation, practicing mindfulness and gratitude, watching funny movies, coloring and writing letters. Think about hobbies and things you have enjoyed in the past.
- Stay in touch with friends and family through phone calls, FaceTime, or social media to avoid feeling isolated.
- Maintain healthy eating, sleep and exercises habits, using the guidelines set by your physician.
- Identify online resources for recommendations and support:
“Remember that you are not alone and that there are things you can do to reduce stress and anxiety related to the COVID-19 virus," Dr. Royal said.
If you are a Baptist MD Anderson patient and have additional questions about the steps you can take to protect yourself from COVID-19, please call your care team at 904.202.7300. For more information, visit Baptistjax.com/Covid-19 or if you have questions about COVID symptoms, call 904.302.5050.