Continuing Cancer Treatment During the Pandemic Remains Important

Continuing Cancer Treatment During the Pandemic Remains Important

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 is a new disease, so data about its impact on underlying medical conditions is limited. Cancer is among the medical conditions considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Fear of infection with COVID-19 understandably causes some cancer patients to be reluctant to maintain their treatment plan. As we await approval of a safe and effective vaccine for the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses that cancer patients and survivors need to take special precautions to protect themselves, their family members, and caregivers to stay healthy during the pandemic.

People who have cancer now, especially those who are treated with chemotherapy, are more likely to get an infection because chemotherapy can weaken the immune system. For this same reason, the infection may be more severe for some patients. At this time, it is not known whether having a history of cancer increases risk.

The CDC recommends cancer patients take these actions:

  • Have a conversation with your healthcare provider or care team to discuss your individual level of risk based on your condition, your treatment, and the level of transmission in your community.
  • Do not stop taking your medicines or alter your treatment plan without talking to your healthcare provider.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medicines.
  • Do not delay life-saving treatment or emergency care.
  • Call your healthcare provider or care team if you have concerns about your condition, your treatment, think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, or have any other questions.
  • For more information on preventing infections for people with cancer, go to

This critical population group should do the following, the CDC advises:

  • Watch out for fever. Take your temperature any time you feel warm, flushed, chilled, or not well. Call your doctor right away if you have a temperature of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher.
  • Clean your hands. Many diseases are spread by not cleaning your hands, which is especially dangerous when you are getting chemotherapy treatment. Wash your hands often.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of infection. Infection during chemotherapy can lead to hospitalization or death. Call your doctor right away if you notice any of the signs and symptoms of an infection.
  • Avoid other people as much as possible (practice social distancing). Avoid leaving home as much as possible. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between you and non-household members. If you must leave home, avoid places where people congregate. Have supplies and food delivered to your home.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others to protect other people in case you are infected, and ask others to do the same.

For more information, visit

It is also very important for people who live with or take care of people with cancer to take steps to keep themselves healthy. As a caregiver, it is important that they take care of themselves. Following the proper protocol is essential to help lower the chance of spreading an infection to the person with cancer.

Caregivers and household members must remember that if they become infected with COVID-19, they risk infecting the cancer patient. Therefore, to minimize their risk of becoming infected, they should observe the precautions recommended for the cancer patient as much as possible. In addition to being aware of symptoms of infection, cleaning hands often, and social distancing, caregivers who become ill must immediately separate themselves from the cancer patient and make arrangements for someone else to care for the patient.

Coping with the risks of COVID-19 while being treated for cancer is especially challenging. There are many questions and uncertainties, but following the recommendations of healthcare providers can help make it easier to stay safe and recover sooner.

Scott Harris, M.D.
State Health Officer

(November 2020)