Life during the coronavirus pandemic is far from normal. Whether it’s work, finances, family, personal health or countless other worries, most people have some added anxiety during these times. And for cancer patients, who are already experiencing a traumatic life change, the fear and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic can make matters even worse.
A cancer diagnosis in normal times comes with many questions. What is my prognosis? How do I treat my cancer? How is my quality of life going to be impacted? Now though, the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 sparks even more questions. It also casts doubt on whether it’s even safe to move forward with your cancer care at this time.
We know there is a lot of uncertainty right now, but one thing is certain: your cancer does not know about the coronavirus. Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed or are currently undergoing treatment, Provision CARES Proton Therapy is here to help you navigate your cancer journey amidst this global pandemic. In this article, we’ll discuss how the coronavirus is impacting cancer patients, and look at the next steps you can take to proceed with your cancer care; whether it’s meeting with a physician to talk about treatment options or following a prescribed treatment plan. We’ll also explain how we’ve adapted our own policies and procedures to make sure we can deliver timely cancer treatment in a safe environment.
What cancer patients should know about the coronavirus
According to the CDC, there are many types of human coronaviruses, some of which cause upper-respiratory tract illnesses. They were first identified in the 1960s, but COVID-19 is a new disease caused by a new (novel) type of coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. As a result, there is not yet a vaccine or cure.
The CDC has identified groups of people who may be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including those over the age of 65 and people who are immunocompromised. Cancer patients undergoing chemo or radiation treatment are often considered immunocompromised, meaning they are generally more susceptible to illness. Therefore, we understand people who have been recently diagnosed may be hesitant to begin cancer treatment. Likewise, for those patients already receiving treatment, you may feel a lot of fear and anxiety about going out in public.
It is recommended people in high-risk groups limit their travel, but there are some situations where a trip is essential. This can include medical appointments and our physicians can help you determine whether such trips are essential for you. The good news is there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself during those essential trips out of your home. Because COVID-19 spreads mainly from person-to-person, these include social distancing (keeping space between yourself and others), avoiding crowds, and washing your hands often. We have taken steps to make sure you can continue following these precautions while visiting our proton therapy centers. The CDC also recommends wearing a cloth face covering. However, it’s important to understand a cloth face covering is not intended to protect the person wearing it, but rather prevent the spread of the virus in case the person wearing it is infected.
How to proceed with cancer care during the pandemic
Cancer care begins once you are diagnosed and continues as you meet with a physician, determine a treatment plan, then follow your treatment plan to completion. If you have recently been diagnosed, it’s important to remember that every cancer diagnosis is unique. In some cases, it may be appropriate to delay treatment until the risk of contracting COVID-19 has decreased. This can be determined before or after you begin treatment. On the other hand, some patients may need to proceed with cancer treatment right away. It is best to consult with a physician to help make this decision.
As a first step in your cancer care journey, we recommend calling Provision CARES Proton Therapy to speak with a Cancer Care Expert. They can help you determine whether a consultation with one of our physicians would be beneficial for you, and whether your consultation should be in-person or via telehealth.
During your consultation, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with one of our board-certified Radiation Oncologists to talk about your cancer diagnosis, answer any questions you may have, and review your treatment options. At that time, you and your physician can decide whether it’s best to move forward with treatment or delay it.
We know many people who have recently been diagnosed with cancer are hesitant to leave their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why we offer telehealth consultations that allow you to remain at home and speak directly to a physician using any smartphone, tablet or computer with video capability. This technology may seem intimidating at first, but our Cancer Care Experts can help guide you through our simple process step-by-step. To learn more about our telehealth program, please visit our Telehealth FAQ section.
Some patients may benefit more from an in-person consultation based on their cancer diagnosis. This will be determined by your physician. For those patients, as well as those already undergoing treatment, we encourage you to follow the CDC recommendations for essential travel. All of our centers are stand-alone buildings, not busy hospitals, and we are taking preventative measures to ensure we can deliver safe care to our patients.
What we’re doing to help
Whether you are at the beginning of your cancer care journey or already a patient undergoing proton therapy treatment, Provision CARES Proton Therapy is committed to your health and safety. Many cancer patients have expressed anxiety about being diagnosed with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we understand that cancer care goes on, so we’ve taken steps to make sure patients feel as comfortable and safe as possible while moving forward with their cancer care amidst the pandemic.
Our compliance and safety staff is monitoring the most up-to-date policies and recommendations from the Tennessee Department of Health and CDC. In accordance with those recommendations, we have implemented many preventative measures so that we may continue treating new and existing patients at all of our centers. These include:
- Screening all patients and visitors before they enter the building
- Limiting patients to a maximum of one visitor
- Increased monitoring of soap/hand sanitizer dispensers
- Implementing work-from-home capability for many non-clinical employees in order to limit the number of people at our centers
Despite the fear and uncertainty during these times, it’s important to move forward with your cancer care, while still taking the proper precautions to keep yourself safe from COVID-19. If you are currently undergoing proton therapy at Provision, any questions you have about delaying or suspending your treatment should be discussed with your radiation oncologist.
For patients who have recently been diagnosed, sometimes proceeding with your cancer care is as simple as a discussion with your physician to determine whether it’s safe to wait things out. For others though, a delay in treatment might not be worth the risk. Ultimately, only you and your physician can make that decision. That’s why we encourage you to take the first step in moving forward with your cancer care during the coronavirus pandemic by calling one of our Cancer Care Experts to help answer your questions.