Covid-19: Navigating cancer during the pandemic

Covid-19: Navigating cancer during the pandemic

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, cancer  patients may feel worried about how the virus might affect them. It is  only natural to feel that way as they are at a higher risk of infection  due to their weakened immune system[1]. Below is advise given by Dr. John Low, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Cancer patients and caregivers may take extra precautionary measures during this time, including physically distancing themselves from others, washing their hands often, and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces at home. However, they should not allow the fear of the pandemic to detract them from their fight against cancer.

Here are some things to note when navigating cancer during this trying time. 

  1. It is important to receive treatment as scheduled

Cancer  patients who are actively receiving treatments such as immunotherapy,  chemotherapy, and radiotherapy are strongly encouraged to adhere  strictly to their treatment schedule. If treatments are missed, the  cancer cells might have an opportunity to continue to grow, and they may  become more resistant to the treatment[2]

Patients are advised to speak to their doctor if they have any concerns. 

  • It is safe to continue receiving treatment in hospitals

Hospitals  nationwide are practicing the recommended precautions to ensure the  safety of their patients – including carrying out temperature checks on  all patients and visitors entering the hospital, requesting their past  travel records, and have them sign a Health Declaration Form before  allowing them to enter the hospital[3].  

Hospital staff also conduct thorough cleaning and disinfection regularly, especially in chemotherapy and radiotherapy wards, so that patients can receive their treatment with ease3. Hence, patients are in good hands, and they need not worry about the quality of their hospitals’ services during this period.

  • Do not delay getting symptoms checked

For people who have a worrying symptom and is concerned that they have cancer, it is important that they do not delay seeking medical advice. They can call their primary care physician or hospitals to schedule an appointment. 

It  is vital to get symptoms checked as soon as possible to minimise the  delay in diagnosis, and ensure they get the treatment needed  immediately. Failure to do so could lead to advanced stage diagnosis and  poor long-term survival[4].This is especially the case for lung cancer patients, as over 90% of all cases in Malaysia were detected at very late stage[5]

While it is important to stay safe and take precautionary measures against Covid-19, remember that it is even more important for patients and caregivers to adhere to their doctors’ advice for cancer treatment and care. 

All around the world, everyone is battling the same fight against Covid-19 with a great sense of urgency due to the pandemic’s far-reaching consequences on the economy and wellbeing of the people. However, we should not lose sight of the equally important fight against cancer, which has and will continue to impact the lives of patients, caregivers, and our society for a long time to come. Cancer doesn’t take a break, so neither should we. 

[1]https://www.macmillan.org.uk/coronavirus/cancer-and-coronavirus

[2]https://www.asco.org/asco-coronavirus-information/care-individuals-cancer-during-covid-19

[3] http://www.moh.gov.my/moh/resources/Penerbitan/Garis%20Panduan/COVID19/Annex_8_IPC_21032020.pdf

[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256519/

[5]Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report 2012-2016


Source: Bernama


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