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Coronavirus: Expert Tells Do's And Don'ts For Cancer Patients

Coronavirus: Low immunity, malignancy and frequent hospital treatments make cancer patients more vulnerable to COVID-19 complications. Oncologist Dr Santanu Chaudhri shares some important do's and don'ts that cancer patients must follow.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Radiotherapy patients should get treatment with masks on
  2. Blood counts should be performed and reviewed before each chemo
  3. Cancer patients should avoid shaking hands or hugging each other

Cancer patients of any age group are at higher risk of COVID-19 complications. This can be attributed to low immunity, malignancy as well as multiple hospital visits for treatment. Cancer patients must continue their treatment unless they are in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or presenting with symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties or high temperature. Oncologists should accordingly decide to postpone, discontinue or modify radiation therapy.

Coronavirus: Here are a few precautions that the patient and their caregivers can take to avoid infection


Do's for cancer patients (in general)

  1. Cancer patients and the caregivers should wash their hands frequently using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or frequently use alcohol-based hand rub. Wash hands especially after coughing, sneezing or touching objects like door handle which are likely to be touched by others as well.
  2. They should cover the mouth and nose with a tissue or flexed elbow while coughing and sneezing. Dispose the used tissue immediately in a closed container and wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub.
  3. Clean the floor and commonly touched objects at least once a day at home.
  4. Cancer patients should stay at home in a separate room. Caregivers should maintain optimum personal hygiene like washing hands, use mask before contacting the patient.
  5. Proper diet plan for the cancer patients as per daily requirement, basically diets rich in protein, Vitamin-C, Vitamin-D, Zinc are necessary. Do discuss with your Dietitian for better nutrition chart.
  6. Contact your Oncologist or seek medical care early in case of fever, cough or breathing difficulty.
  7. Practice social distancing everywhere at least 1 meter; at home as well as in hospital during treatment (specifically in waiting area and in chemotherapy wards).
  8. Finally, stay at home strictly and abide yourself to the rules made by the government

Also read: Coronavirus Lockdown: Expert-Recommended Tips To Take Care Of Your Heart Health

For Radiotherapy Patients

  1. All patients receiving radiotherapy except for Head and Neck cancer patients should receive treatment with their masks on.
  2. Lung cancer patients associated with cough; COVID-19 status should be ruled out before starting Radiotherapy.
  3. Cancer patients receiving radiotherapy with other associated comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension, cardiac diseases, kidney diseases; special attention must be given for COVID-19 prevention.
  4. In case of any episode of fever, cough in patients receiving radiotherapy chest X-Ray must be done to rule out pneumonia and COVID clinic referral must be done.
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Cancer patients should receive radiotherapy with their masks on
Photo Credit: iStock

For Chemotherapy patients

  1. Blood counts should be performed and reviewed before starting each chemotherapy.
  2. Social distancing should be respected in Chemotherapy wards; by allotting alternate beds to the patients.
  3. Three weekly and four weekly regimens are to be preferred over weekly regimens to minimize the number of hospital visits.
  4. Each episode of fever and cough must be differentiated from COVID-19 infection, by performing needful tests.
  5. Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy with other associated comorbidities like Ddiabetes, hypertension, cardiac diseases, kidney diseases; special attention must be given for COVID-19 prevention.

All above general points mentioned above should be strictly followed.

Also read: Cancer Diet: Importance Of Good Nutrition Before And During Cancer Treatment; Diet Basics You Need To Know

Coronavirus: Don'ts for cancer patients (in general)

  • Avoid unnecessary visit to the hospital.
  • Do not touch any objects or face (specifically eyes, nose and mouth) after coughing or sneezing.
  • Don't allow yourself and the patient to come in close contact with anyone who has a cold, fever or flu-like symptoms.
  • Do not share objects between others like newspapers, magazines, hospital files, Radiotherapy cards etc.
  • Do not shake hands or hug each other. Caregivers should not overcrowd the cancer treatment areas.
  • Avoid crowded places strictly.
  • Do not spread rumors of any form which may hamper the smooth cancer treatments.

For Radiotherapy Patients

  • Any treatment procedures, which increases the risk of production of more aerosols like Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) Radiotherapy technique must be avoided.
  • Concurrent Chemotherapy should be avoided.
  • Caregivers/Attendants should be restricted to enter the OPD, treatment area, unless specifically needed.

All above general points mentioned above should be strictly followed.

For Chemotherapy Patients

  • Patients with low Total Leukocyte Count (TLC), Neutropenia; chemotherapy should be avoided.
  • Chemotherapy should not be administered in patients with low platelet counts.

All above general points mentioned above should be strictly followed.

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Basic steps of prevention like regularly washing hands must be followed with discipline
Photo Credit: iStock

Also read: Coronavirus Prevention: 6 Mistakes You Need To Avoid When Wearing A Face Mask


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(Dr (Prof) Santanu Chaudhuri, Chairman, Centre of Excellence for Oncology, Nayati Medicity)

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