How Does COVID-19 Impact People With Breast Cancer?

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People suffering from breast cancer and other chronic diseases are at a greater risk of catching COVID-19. This new respiratory illness is commonly known as novel coronavirus. The risk of getting coronavirus is low for most people but its symptoms may be life-threatening for a   cancer patient.

Moreover, this pandemic may also result in the temporary suspension of cancer screening and treatment. As a result, people with breast cancer, respiratory disease, HIV, and other chronic illnesses are at a high risk of developing COVID-19.  

Vulnerability to COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, undergoing various cancer treatments makes your immune system weak.

In normal conditions, the weak immune system of a person recovers within a few weeks. It means people who have recently completed or currently receiving cancer treatment are more likely to experience acute COVID-19 infection. 

The World Health Organization report indicates that 7.6% of coronavirus deaths are related to people with cancer. Due to limited information on COVID-19, researchers and scientists are still investigating its additional effects on breast cancer patients.

How Breast Cancer Can Increase Risks Associated With the Novel Coronavirus?

It increases the following risks:

  • Weak Immunity

Due to various cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and targeted therapies, the immune system of a person becomes more vulnerable to coronavirus.

  • Cancelled or Delayed Screening and Surgery

Most health centres and hospitals may be delaying cancer screenings and surgeries as most healthcare providers are overburdened due to COVID-19.

Visiting hospitals, clinics, and your doctor’s office can be more dangerous for those who have a weak immune system. 

  • Prescription Drug

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, a smooth supply of medications may be disrupted and people will find it difficult to get their prescriptions.

  • Increased Isolation for Health Care Workers

To reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, the health care staff may need to keep a safe distance and take all precautionary steps while helping people with breast cancer.

Are All Cancer Patients at a Higher Risk of Coronavirus?

Current cancer patients and survivors are at risk of critical illness if they develop coronavirus. 

It includes people who are:

  • Still taking immunosuppression drugs.
  • Receiving active chemotherapy.
  • Suffering from blood or bone marrow such as myeloma, lymphoma, or leukaemia.
  • Undergoing radical radiotherapy for lung cancer.
  • Having continuous antibody treatments and immunotherapy for cancer.
  • Suffering from other chronic diseases and cancer.
  • Undergoing treatments such as parp inhibitors or protein kinase inhibitors. 
  • Have had stem cell or bone marrow transplants in the past 6 months. 

How to Deal With Canceled or Delayed Cancer Screening and Treatment?

People with breast cancer should consult their doctor about the possibility of elective surgeries during this pandemic. 

They should ask the following question to their health care providers:

  • What symptoms would require immediate treatment?
  • What are the alternative treatments in a hospital?
  • Is it safe to visit hospitals with fewer coronavirus patients for routine treatment?
  • How long can a person with breast cancer safely delay treatment?
  • Does delaying treatment outweigh the risks?

For follow-ups and nonemergency care, telemedicine can be a great option. Ask your doctor whether the appointments can be made online or via the phone.

What Extra Precautions Should Breast Cancer Patients Take?

Breast cancer patients should take some extra precautions than general preventive measures such as washing hands with soap and water, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, etc. to minimize the risk of developing COVID-19.

  • Stock up on necessary medications (at least for 30 days)
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Avoid direct contact with others
  • Boost your immune system
  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Keep your stress levels low
  • Do moderate physical exercise
  • Eat healthy and nutritional meals
  • Get adequate sleep

Best Time to Visit Your Doctor?

You should discuss the adverse effect of coronavirus on the current health conditions with your healthcare provider. Call your doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of these following issues:

  • High fever, dry cough, or tiredness.
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain, or trouble in breathing
  • Cancer symptoms become worse

For any suspected Covid-19 infection, your doctor may perform some tests using ELISA Kits for diagnosis.  

The symptoms of COVID-19 can be critical for those who are undergoing any kind of cancer treatment. People with breast cancer should regularly consult their oncologists and follow their specific guidelines.