Cancer and COVID-19: What you need to know

Cancer patients and their families are concerned about how the COVID-19 virus could affect them. Here are frequently asked questions along with answers about COVID-19 for cancer or immunosuppressed patients. 

Who's at highest risk for complications associated with COVID-19?

  • People age 60 and older
  • People with health conditions like 
    • lung disease
    • heart disease
    • diabetes
    • chronic kidney disease
    • cancer 
  • People receiving chemotherapy for cancer or other diseases
  • People receiving medications that purposefully suppress their immune system — for example, treatment for rheumatoid arthritis

Are some cancers and treatments more high-risk than others?

People who’ve had a bone marrow transplant and are on immune suppressive medication are highest risk. Blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma also pose a high risk for COVID-19 complications. However, all people receiving cancer treatment and those around them should follow these safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol if soap and water aren’t available. Wash with soap and water and soon as possible.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces often. Regular household wipes and sprays will kill the virus. 
  • Maintain social distancing (6 feet).
    • Avoid physical contact like handshakes and hugging.
    • Avoid people who are coughing or sneezing.
  • Manage stress by getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, and staying active.

Should I stop my cancer treatment?

Unless your medical oncologist or radiation oncologist tells you otherwise, it’s not necessary for you to stop your cancer treatment. In fact, stopping cancer treatment could be more harmful to your health than the risk of being exposed to COVID-19. You should continue taking oral chemotherapy, steroids, and support medications as prescribed. If you have specific circumstances or concerns, be sure to discuss them with your oncology team.

What should I do if I develop a fever?

Please contact your oncology office for direction.

What should I do if I'm told to come into the clinic for evaluation of side-effects like a fever?

  1. Call the clinic when you arrive in the parking lot.
  2. You and one escort will be given a mask and guided to a private room for further evaluation.

How is Intermountain keeping their facilities safe for patients?

Intermountain is taking strict measures to keep our clinics, infusion centers and radiation centers safe for you to receive your treatments including:

  • We’re requiring all patients and caregivers to wash their hands or use alcohol sanitizer before and after leaving an exam room and a facility.
  • We’re limiting the number of support people (visitors) who come with patients into our facilities to one person per patient.
  • We’re screening people who enter our facilities for fever or other signs of illness.

How do I protect myself and others when I come into the hospital or clinic?

  • Use the hand sanitation stations at hospital and clinic entrances.
  • If you aren’t feeling well, please call for specific instructions request a mask. Be aware that mask supplies are limited.
  • Only bring one person with you.
  • Persons under the age of 18 should not come into clinic unless they’re being treated.
  • If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue, put it in the garbage, and wash your hands right away. If you don’t have a tissue, cover your nose and mouth with the crease of your elbow. 

What are some ways I can manage stress and anxiety?

  • Limit how much news you consume and limit to reputable sources.
  • Focus on what you can control.
  • Use the time to develop deeper connections with others.