Sarah Cannon - April 28, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to affect day-to-day lives across the world, people living with cancer are faced with specific concerns about their health. Stephanie Graff, MD, Director of the Breast Cancer Program at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA Midwest Health and Associate Director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at Sarah Cannon Research Institute, answers commonly asked questions about COVID-19 for people facing cancer.

I am being treated with chemotherapy for early stage cancer. Should I cancel my treatments and stay home?

If there are a high number of COVID-19 cases in your community, your care teams may make specific recommendations around modifying your treatment schedule. However, the vast majority of people who are undergoing curative cancer treatment should continue to stay on their treatment plan if possible. While you may worry about the risks of contracting COVID-19, delaying or changing treatment creates risks to your long-term health as well. If you have specific questions, be sure to reach out to your treating physicians.

I still have my port-a-cath from my cancer treatment and go into my physician’s office every four weeks to have it flushed. Should I be going in for that care during the pandemic?

Port flushes for central venous catheters/ports can be extended to as long as 12 weeks without an increase in harmful side effects.

Is there anything special that I should be doing as a cancer survivor to minimize my risk of infection with COVID-19?

Cancer survivors are still encouraged to follow standard precautions. You should try to maximize advice to shelter at home, which will minimize outside exposures for you and your family. When in public, avoid touching your face, practice diligent hand hygiene, maintain a 6-foot distance between yourself and others and wear a simple mask based on the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn more about what you can do to help protect yourself and others by visiting COVID-19 (Coronavirus): What Do I Need To Know As A Cancer Patient?

Staying at home is recreating a lot of the anxiety that I had during my prior cancer treatment when I was trying to minimize contacts. I cannot seem to stop worrying. What should I do?

It is normal to feel anxious or worried during this time. Here are some ways that you can help alleviate stress. If your worry becomes unhealthy—particularly if you develop thoughts of harm—call for help.

  • Try meditating
  • Take a break from the news and social media. Call or virtually connect with friends and family
  • Take a walk in nature (maintaining a 6-foot distance from others)
  • Turn on music and dance in your living room
  • Watch a funny movie
  • Find joyful things that you can do at home and invest time in those activities

Sarah Cannon is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of our patients and care team members across the network. If you have any questions on the procedures at our facilities or proactive measures that you can take to protect yourself, contact askSARAH at (844) 482-4812 to speak to a nurse who is specially trained to help with your cancer questions.