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Covid-19

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has rapidly spread across the globe, including throughout the United States. People who are elderly and patients who are immune compromised, including cancer patients, are more susceptible to this virus. Because it is important for patients to receive their treatments without interruptions, it is recommended that patients to speak with their physicians about a how their treatment and follow-up visits will be impacted.


Recommendations

ASTRO Recommendation on COVID-19 Vaccination for Cancer Patients Receiving Radiation Therapy
Cancer patients may have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and more severe disease if infected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. mRNA COVID-19 vaccines may be administered to people with underlying medical conditions provided they have not had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.” These guidelines also apply to cancer patients. The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines do not include any virus, and there is no risk of contracting the infection from the vaccine.

Patients who have cancer, as well as those who have received treatment for cancer, may be immune compromised, but these patients may still receive COVID-19 vaccines as long as there is no increased risk of reaction to any of the components of the vaccine. ASTRO encourages cancer patients who are actively receiving treatment such as radiation therapy to consult with their oncologists about the timing for vaccination, injection location and any unique considerations relevant for their treatments. Individuals with a prior history of cancer who are not in active treatment are encouraged to seek vaccination whenever it is made available to them.


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has made the following recommendations for patients and the public about general care:

  • Stock up on supplies that would be needed to stay home for a period of time (household items, groceries, medications). Try to purchase items online or visit places at off-peak times to minimize contact with others.
  • Be sure you have enough over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies (tissues, etc.) to treat fever and other flu-like symptoms. Most people will recover from COVID-19 at home.
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, ***maintain social distancing, wear a cloth face covering to cover your mouth and nose where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) and wash your hands often.
  • Take precautions to keep space between yourself and others (six feet is the recommended distance).
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible and, if you are in public, avoid touching frequently used surfaces such as handrails, handles, or elevator buttons.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.
  • During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.

Visit the CDC online for more practical tips for protecting your health and keeping the transmission rate of this virus low at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. To learn information specific to your state, visit your state health department.

If you or a loved one does develop mild flu-like symptoms (fever, muscle aches, cough, sneezing, running nose), call your doctor's office for advice before going in to be seen.

If you are a patient who needs assistance in obtaining medication, please check with your health care provider or drug manufacturer to learn about the availability of any financial assistance programs.


Additional Resources:


Advice for immune compromised patients

Watch this webcast as Sabin B. Motwani, MD, from New Jersey and J. Benjamin Wilkinson, MD, from California, review tips on top ten ways immune compromised patients can reduce risk of contracting COVID-19 and share their experiences in their respective areas.

View the slides


Radiation Oncology Care During COVID-19: How Are Cancer Patients Getting Life-Saving Radiation Treatment?

Leading experts from the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Ronald D. Ennis, MD and Louis Potters, MD joined National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) CEO Shelley Fuld Nasso to discuss the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on radiation oncology practices and answer questions from cancer patients.

Learn more and watch the briefing.


Radiation oncologists share their personal experiences with COVID-19

Dr. Benjamin Movsas, Chair of Radiation Oncology at the Henry Ford Cancer Institute in Michigan, recovered from COVID-19 earlier this year. Watch as he talks about his experience and the important impact it had on him.

Radiation oncologists also are sharing their stories in the news:
70-year-old radiation oncologist beats the odds, wheeled out of hospital to cheers (ABC Tampa Bay, 5/7/20)
“I believe I had an excellent team and what I realize—which I already know because I have worked in the medical team—it takes real people, dedicated people. …You have to have it in your heart, because it’s a calling,” -Dr. Zunya (Zucel) Solc, a radiation oncologist at Wellspring Oncology

Doctor recovers, gives first serum donation at Methodist University (Daily Memphian, 2/24/20)
“My body was strong enough to fight this off. In a way, giving plasma is sharing that strength with someone else. When I think about why I gave, it’s what we do. We help our neighbor as a healer. It’s why we train and study and work hard. It’s to help people, to heal people.” -Dr. Daniel Wakefield, a radiation oncology resident at West Cancer Center