This virus is named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease caused by this virus is referred to as COVID-19. It is a part of a huge virus family. As much terror has the virus created the virus can only be transmitted in case of close contact with an infected individual.
The virus has its name from its appearance under a microscope like presenting with a crown. It creates a chain of events leading to progressive respiratory distress. The case fatality rate as collected from reliable sources is said to be around 15% in the elderly and 2.3% altogether. The age-wise incidence reported is around 1% for below 10 years of age. 90% of all cases are reported between the ages group 30 and 80. Besides being affected the highest level of mortality has been reported in the age group above 80. All rates are on otherwise healthy individuals.
The risk to Cancer patients due to COVID-19
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and immune suppressants taken after surgical cancer removal usually weaken the patient’s immune system. This means that any infection around may possibly affect you more than any healthy individual. For the people still undergoing chemotherapy, it is all the more challenging. Even amongst cancer patients, children are at maximum risk of getting affected due to this infection.
How to protect oneself?
Now when you are aware that you have cancer and COVID-19 has no documented treatment, the best way to protect yourself is by avoiding the exposure to the virus. This can be practiced by:
- Follow lockdown imposed by the government. Even after the lockdown is lifted, keep distant from high gathering places, avoid shaking hands, keep nose and mouth covered, and wash your hands with soap for about 20 seconds, as much as you can, especially after coming back from outside. Avoid touching your face, use shoulder or sleeve to itch or cover. Use protection and practice hygiene during all activities of daily living. Try and avoid infections of all kinds.
- Avoiding outdoors entirely during and at least a month or so after Corona spread is controlled is a must, if it’s important as a hospital visit, try covering your nose and mouth. Avoid all contact from anyone who appears to be sick. Practice social distancing.
- The prophylactic flu vaccine would have been a great idea if not had till now, take it if easily possible.
- Managing Indoors – Keep indoors clean and dust-free with the help of wet mopping and vacuuming. Make sure all doorknobs and handles are (the place of most infection) kept clean. Use a disinfectant for all cleaning purposes.
- STOP SMOKING already…avoid exposure of secondary smoke too. The smoke itself is full of tar and other toxic chemicals that may cause a weakened immune system and breathing distress.
- Include vitamin C, ginger, garlic, and fennel in daily consumption menus; it helps strengthen your immune system. Take all your existing medications for cancer or heart, lungs, and sugar right on time.
- Keep a pocket-size sanitizer handy, use it.
- In case you feel febrile with a dry cough get yourself tested, other worry situations can be:
- Breathing distress
- Excessive fatigue and feeling of unwell
If you are in the middle of your treatment sessions:
First things first, call and communicate that to your clinician. Some management options can wait but a few cannot. Even with the later, the risk of exposing yourself to a deadly virus seems much higher. Let your clinician take this call. If a hospital visit is essential, take your own car. Most hospitals assure that Oncology daycare is way away from the infectious setup. You can get transfer to a facility that does not treat infectious diseases.
Use innovative methods like teleconsultation and telemedicine. Most hospitals provide apps to send drugs to patients without them commuting.
Keep updating from your clinicians and other reliable sources. Advisory by the state is the most important document that needs to be followed. Make sure to double-check all the information. Most importantly do not panic and communicate, during the times like this, a small tweet can take you a long way…
Dr. Kanika Sharma, Clinical Lead & Senior Consultant – Radiation Oncology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi