Updated: Dec 7, 2021
The most common question I’ve received from patients in 2020: ‘As someone with cancer, am I at a greater risk of getting Covid?’
This is a very good question, but it is very patient specific. It depends on a number of factors such as age and overall health, and largely depends on whether or not you are about to receive treatment, are undergoing treatment or are finished treatment.
Not all types of cancer will weaken the immune system, but most types of cancer treatments do. Since the primary role of the immune system is to help fight off infection, individuals with weaker immune systems are at a higher risk of getting infections, including COVID-19.
The risk of being immune compromised is typically highest during the time of cancer treatment and immediately afterwards. Other factors such as older age, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes can also weaken your immune system.
There is no specific test to determine if a person is immune compromised, although low white blood cell counts or low levels of antibodies in the blood likely indicate a compromised immune system.
If you are concerned about starting your cancer treatments because you are afraid of being exposed to Covid-19 in the hospital, speak to your Oncologist about the impact that delaying your treatment would have on your cancer. Chances are they won’t want to postpone your treatment due to Covid-19, so be as cautious as possible when going to the hospital for treatments. Bring your own bottle of hand sanitizer, be diligent with hand washing, physically distance yourself from other patients, and always wear a mask.
If you do test positive for COVID-19 while you are undergoing treatment, your Oncologist will determine if you should continue on with treatments or take a break to allow your body to heal from the virus. This decision will be based on the impact this may have on your cancer and overall health.
Covid-19 is scary, but delaying your cancer treatment can cause your cancer to grow and metastasize. The best course of action would be to continue on with your treatments unless you become too physically ill to do so.
If you are undergoing cancer treatment or have recently finished treatment, there is also a chance that you may be more likely to have serious complications from Covid-19. When your immune system is weak, your body isn’t able to fight off the virus as well, and that can lead to serious health complications. This is not always the case however. With proper medical attention, I have seen many of my cancer patients bounce back from Covid-19 seamlessly. Some even ended up in the ICU on ventilators, yet still made a full recovery and finished their cancer treatment with only a 2 week delay.
If you are about to start cancer treatment or are currently undergoing treatment, and you develop symptoms of Covid-19, inform your Oncologist immediately and then arrange to get tested. If you are finished treatment, call your family doctor and they will advise you on what to do.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to us any time at Own Your Cancer Coaching.