As the Coronavirus Pandemic unfolds in the United States and Americans work to adjust their daily lives around changes in their routines, many questions arise. Among them, questions from the cancer community about their immunity and susceptability to the COVID-19 virus. We’ve addressed some of the most frequently asked questions here with help from Dr. Steve Pergam, a clinical and infectious disease researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
You can read the related article here: https://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2020/03/coronavirus-what-cancer-patients-need-to-know.html
Frequently Asked Questions
I’m currently in active treatment. Is my immunity compromised?
Yes – According to Dr. Steve Pergam, a clinical and infectious disease researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, “People over 70 & those with underlying health conditions, like cardiovascular disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease and a history of cancer appear to be at higher risk for major complications if they contract COVID-19. People with hematoligic (blood) malignancies (like non-Hodkin Lymphoma, CLL, AML, ALL, and Multiple Myeloma) and those who’ve received bone marrow transplants seem to be at the greatest risk.
I’ve finished active treatment, but don’t feel like my old self yet. Is my immunity compromised?
Yes – According to Dr. Steve Pergam, a clinical and infectious disease researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, while everyone is different (some may recover immunity faster than others), even those out of treatment need to be extra cautious. “The risk extends beyond the period of active treatment. The after effects of cancer and the immunosuppressive effects of treatment can be long-term.” Check with your doctor if you are concerned about being at an elevated risk or if your work requires you to be in contact with people that may have been exposed.
I’m on long-term hormonal therapy (like Tamoxifen, Arimidex, etc). Is my immunity compromised?
Probably not. Or, at least not because of the hormonal therapy. Tamoxifen and Arimidex and other long-term hormonal treatments are not known to have specific impacts on your immunity. Though, if you have other underlying conditions or tend to get sick often, there may be something else impacting your immunity. Check with your healthcare professional for specifics about your individual circumstances.
I’m scheduled to have a surgery to remove my breast cancer soon. Will my surgery be cancelled? Is breast cancer-related surgery considered elective?
There is no clear answer on this yet. Some facilities are continuing to schedule and perform lumpectomies, mastectomies, port placement surgeries and other surgical procedures related to breast cancer treatment while others are suspending these operations temporarily. Your best bet is to check in with your surgical team to see how they are handling surgical scheduling in your area.