Should You Delay Chemotherapy Because of the Coronavirus?
The current coronavirus pandemic has forced people around the world to accommodate a new reality, one where we keep our distance from each other and stay at home as much as possible. This concern is felt by nearly everyone, but few groups are more affected by it than cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Cancer treatments are clearly a top priority for those suffering from this disease, but for many, receiving this treatment requires leaving home and heading to a hospital – many of which already have their hands full treating scores of coronavirus patients. If getting your next dose of chemo medication means heading into this environment, you might reasonably wonder whether you should delay chemotherapy because of the coronavirus.
To learn more, keep reading as the people at Chemo Mouthpiece™ discuss this topic.
Why Chemo Patients Are at Greater Risk from the Coronavirus
Those going through chemo have long been aware of the dangers associated with this type of treatment. While some of the side effects of chemotherapy are relatively mild – the hair loss that comes with chemo, for example, is largely a cosmetic issue – others represent a significant threat to the patient’s health and eventual recovery.
The issue with chemotherapy is that it’s a systemic treatment, meaning that it affects the patient’s entire body. (This is in comparison to localized treatments like radiation therapy, which targets a specific area of the body.) Once administered, the toxic chemo drugs used to treat cancer flood the body, seeking out and destroying cells that seem cancerous.
The primary function of chemo medications is to find tissues in the body where the cells divide and grow very quickly, as this is a signature trait of tumors. However, this trait is shared by a number of otherwise healthy tissues, especially those in the hair, nails, bone marrow, and digestive tract. Because chemo can’t tell the difference between cancer and tissue that merely bears a passing resemblance to cancer, these healthy tissues tend to be damaged by the treatment as well.
There are many side effects that result from these indiscriminate attacks, including conditions like oral mucositis, but the one that most directly affects patients’ responses to contagions like the coronavirus is the damage done to the immune system.
Normally, bone marrow ensures strong defenses for your body by supplying it with white blood cells designed to eliminate germs; unfortunately, bone marrow is also a prime target for chemo medications, which often stop or hinder this process and compromise the patient’s immune system.
Without proper defenses in place, a patient undergoing chemotherapy might not be able to resist the spread of the coronavirus within their respiratory system. Even in relatively healthy individuals, the symptoms of COVID-19 can quickly escalate from some minor difficulty breathing to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) – and that’s with a properly functioning immune system.
For those going through chemotherapy, avoiding the coronavirus is all the more important because of the even greater likelihood of developing ARDS (Source).
Weighing Chemotherapy vs. Coronavirus Exposure
The question of whether you should delay your next chemo treatment because of the coronavirus is not one to be taken lightly. For many patients with cancer, chemotherapy offers their best chance to beat the disease and reclaim their lives and their health, but this process tends to be lengthy, requiring many treatments over a span of weeks or months to ensure the eradication of any cancer cells in the body.
Because chemo is based on a regimen spread out over time, there is often some flexibility regarding when each treatment can take place. Patients who develop severe side effects from chemo sometimes have to delay treatments until those side effects can be mitigated or resolved; the situation with the coronavirus represents a similar challenge (Source).
Hospitals around the country are filled to capacity with patients seeking treatment for COVID-19, making these locations potentially dangerous for patients receiving chemotherapy. Even if the treatment center you regularly use is not located in a hospital, going in for your treatment will probably require you to interact with other people, which could expose you to the virus (Source).
However, the threat of cancer remains, even if you’re receiving treatment, and delaying the process might lead to more significant risks down the road, especially if the cancer is allowed to spread.
The straight answer to the question of chemo vs. coronavirus should ultimately come from your oncologist. Not only are they the most qualified to offer an answer, but they also have a unique understanding of your diagnosis and the treatment it requires.
Every case is different when it comes to cancer, and so the urgency of a particular dose of chemo can vary widely from patient to patient. Speaking to your doctor and discussing your concerns is the best way to come to a decision that’s in your best interest and based on your individual needs.
Fight Oral Mucositis Symptoms with the Chemo Mouthpiece™
With the many health concerns facing chemo patients today, it’s easy to forget that some side effects of chemotherapy can threaten a patient’s well-being in a much less obvious way than the coronavirus does. Oral mucositis, for example, can cause a host of complications that could delay chemotherapy treatments, and it’s impossible to completely prevent.
The best chance for many patients to avoid the worst symptoms of this condition is through cryotherapy – the use of freezing temperatures to shrink the blood vessels and limit the circulation of chemo drugs – and a new potent oral cryotherapy device helping many is the Chemo Mouthpiece™.
To learn more about this innovative, effective device, including how it can help with mouth sores caused by chemo, visit the Chemo Mouthpiece™ website or call (866) 461-7518 today.