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What Happens If You Have Cancer and Get the Coronavirus?

Find out how patients are finding relief from oral mucositis caused by chemotherapy

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What Happens If You Have Cancer and Get the Coronavirus?

Contending with the threat of cancer is never easy, but in the midst of a public health emergency like the one brought on by COVID-19 (also known as the coronavirus), there are a number of additional considerations facing cancer patients.

Under normal circumstances, those suffering from cancer would prioritize their disease to the exclusion of most other concerns, but the dangers of the coronavirus cannot be ignored, especially by those who already have a serious illness.

Steps must be taken to avoid infection; if these fail, and you come down with the virus regardless, the consequences could be catastrophic. If you have cancer and get the coronavirus, there are a few things you should know; keep reading to find out more.

Why You Should Avoid Coronavirus Exposure If You Have Cancer

There are many health conditions that could put you at greater risk of developing life-threatening symptoms of the coronavirus – cancer being one of them. Because of the severity of the virus and the speed at which it can escalate, your body might need every resource it has to survive, but cancer and its treatments tend to deplete those resources and leave patients vulnerable to contagions (Source). The extent of this vulnerability can vary from person to person, based largely on the factors described below.

Type of Cancer

In some cases, the presence of cancer (especially aggressive cancer) in the body can lead to a slew of general health problems, including issues with the lungs. If you have lung cancer or another type of cancer that affects your ability to breathe properly, you could be at greater risk from the coronavirus, since it attacks the respiratory system. If you’re uncertain about how the virus might affect your system, talk to your doctor, and discuss your concerns.

Type of Treatment

There are several major therapies used in the treatment of cancer, and many of these can have adverse effects on the body’s ability to fight off infections. Chemotherapy, for example, tends to damage bone marrow, which is where the body produces the white blood cells used to fight off infection. This compromises the immune system and leaves the body unable to mount an effective defense against invaders like the coronavirus.

Underlying Conditions

If you have cancer in addition to another chronic illness, your body may be weakened beyond what is normally experienced by those with your type of cancer. Keep in mind that additional health problems could leave you even more vulnerable to the coronavirus, particularly if they affect the respiratory or immune systems. As told to us all by the CDC these conditions include asthma, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and severe obesity; some medications, such as corticosteroids also could affect your ability to fight off a COVID-19 infection as well.

What to Do If You Have Cancer and Get the Coronavirus

Discovering you might have the coronavirus can be alarming for those with cancer, especially as the casualties caused by the pandemic continue to rise. However, it’s important that you remain calm and approach the situation with a level head. Remember that not every cough is related to COVID-19; instead, keep an eye out for the emergency warning signs of a coronavirus infection (Source):

  • Difficulty breathing or an inability to catch your breath
  • Pain or pressure building up in your chest
  • Acute confusion or an inability to get moving
  • A bluish tint to the lips or face

This list includes the most severe signs of COVID-19, but the virus may affect each person differently. The most important thing you can do if you think you may have gotten the coronavirus is to contact your primary care doctor or cancer care team and relay your symptoms. They can tell you what steps to take and where to receive treatment, if necessary.

One last point: Unless you or a loved one displays an emergency symptom of the coronavirus, stay home and contact your doctor remotely to avoid infecting others.

Preventing Exposure to the Coronavirus

The best way to avoid the complications that the coronavirus can bring is to prevent initial exposure (Source). Cancer patients may be at greater risk of a serious infection, but their odds of getting the virus in the first place are no higher than for anyone else. Below, you’ll find some tips for how to avoid being exposed to the coronavirus when you have cancer.

Stay at Home When Possible

The coronavirus spreads person-to-person, so staying at home and away from potential sources of infection is the best way to insulate yourself from the virus. Don’t go out unless absolutely necessary.

Wash Your Hands Often

Any time you leave your home or interact with a person or object from outside your home, make sure to wash your hands afterward. Lather with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

Disinfect Surfaces

Anything you or others frequently touch should be cleaned and disinfected regularly; this includes doorknobs, handles, phone screens, etc. Wash these surfaces with soap and water first to remove any grime, then apply a household disinfectant.

Fight Mouth Sores Caused by Chemo with the Chemo Mouthpiece™

Though it may not help with the coronavirus, the Chemo Mouthpiece™ has helped many cancer patients improve their quality of life by fighting the mouth sores caused by chemo.

This oral cryotherapy device cools the inside of the mouth, shrinking the blood vessels (vasoconstriction) during treatment and limiting the circulation of toxic chemo drugs within the vulnerable tissues of the mouth.

To learn more about the Chemo Mouthpiece™ and how it can help you or a loved one going through chemo, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.

You may also take the oral mucositis self-assessment quiz on our website.

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