Coronavirus has resulted in new challenges in managing cancer patients as they are more vulnerable to COVID-19 disease. This article focuses on the effects of COVID-19 on cancer patients and how their treatment prognosis is indirectly affected. Please read the article to know more.
Day by day, scientists are coming to know more about Coronavirus disease and how it affects the everyday life of all individuals. Older adults and people with other existing medical conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung disease, etc., are considered at higher risk of severe Coronavirus disease. So, it may create fear or anxiety if you are affected by any one of the diseases mentioned above. However, do not panic, and there is absolutely nothing to panic about if you are a cancer patient or a patient's caregiver, as following the COVID-19 safety protocols will keep you and your loved ones safe from the deadly virus.
As already known, Coronavirus is a respiratory disease affecting the lungs. When the lungs are not functioning properly at full steam, the oxygenated blood supply to other parts of the body is delayed. So, the heart takes the stress to pump the oxygenated blood around the body, and this harder pumping by the heart is dangerous. This can lead to cardiovascular complications in cancer patients. Thus, the oxygen-carrying capacity by the hemoglobin becomes completely useless due to the harder pumping.
Extra care for cancer patients is required because they are considered to be immunocompromised individuals (either due to cancer or the cancer treatment). As the immune system is weak in cancer patients, they are at higher risks of developing all infections (including COVID-19). They lack the capacity to fight against the Coronavirus when compared to an average person.
When the immunocompromised cancer patients are older and present with other comorbidities (like diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases), then the immune system becomes even weaker. As a result, the organ-related complications become higher when COVID-19 affects cancer patients. In addition, these patients' immunity gets affected by various cancer treatments, such as:
Cancer patients infected with Coronavirus disease can have potential cardiovascular complications. Also, cancer and cancer treatments already increase the likelihood of developing certain heart complications. Now the combined effect of this with COVID-19 is highly devastating. Some of the complications that COVID-19 can further aggravate in cancer patients are:
Blood stasis (cessation of blood flow).
Vascular wall damage (damage to walls of blood vessels).
Hypercoagulation state and thrombosis(increased risk of blood clots).
Also, the most common cardiovascular complications that arise in the general populations as an impact of COVID-19 disease are:
Embolism (a block in a blood vessel due to a blood clot).
Arrhythmia (problems with heart rate and rhythm).
Stroke (interrupted blood supply to the brain).
The exact mechanism between COVID-19 and cancer leading to cardiovascular complications is not fully known. However, it is said that a hyperinflammatory reaction occurs during the synergy of COVID-19 and cancer, which promotes cardiovascular infections in these individuals.
Delay in Cancer Treatment:
Studies say that 9.1% of lung cancer patients decided to delay the cancer treatment, of which 80% of people delayed treatments on their own without the choice of the clinician. Cancer treatment includes four phases, and there are three categories of cancer patients. They are:
Patients under Maintenance Therapy.
Patients under Active therapy.
Patients planned for the treatment.
Central nervous system prophylaxis.
The treatment cannot be postponed if the patient is undergoing the induction phase of blood cancer. The induction phase of blood cancer kills all the cancer cells in the blood, and this treatment should be done with precautions and with personal protective equipment.
Skipping cancer medicines is not advisable, but missing these pills during the COVID-19 lockdown is really not anyone's fault. Chemotherapy can be altered for a maximum of 3 months. Still, a long gap of more than 3 months between two consecutive cycles will result in loss of therapeutic benefits to the patients. So, always be in touch with your doctor and arrange for treatment in nearby hospitals as soon as possible.
In the case of breast cleaning programs, if the doctor feels not to provide chemotherapy at this stage or if there is no benefit of providing chemotherapy, it can definitely be delayed for four to five months or until everything gets normal as the government is trying to beat this pandemic.
When the treatment is completed, or the patient is cancer-free but still on hormonal therapy, they are not considered to be at higher risk and can completely follow their normal routine with general precautions.
Cancer patients being at more risk of severe COVID-19 also puts the doctor at increased risk of acquiring the disease. Therefore, cancer surgeons take some precautions during COVID-19, and they prefer to perform COVID tests for all patients before starting up with any treatment. They collect samples from the nose and mouth of the patients, which are then tested for the presence of the deadly Coronavirus.
Furthermore, certain treatment modifications are carried out due to COVID-19, where special procedures and chemotherapy are passed at a much higher degree as the patients have not received the treatment for a long time.
Do not fear if you are a cancer patient, as you can successfully overcome this pandemic with extra precautions and treatment compared to normal people. Follow these general precautions, and do not skip them at any cost:
Often wash your hands, preferably with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
Hand sanitization (sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol).
Cleaning frequently touched surfaces regularly with disinfectants.
Avoiding frequent contacts with eyes, nose, and mouth.
All these precautions are considered vital elements to reduce the spread of COVID-19 disease; it is also important to get at least two months' worth of medicines and household things. It is understandable that the current pandemic has made us anxious to delay or pause the cancer treatments. But, considering the high risks of COVID-19 in immunocompromised cancer patients, it is recommended to continue their standard treatment regimen to prevent worsening of the condition, also call the nearest hospital or healthcare center in case of any COVID-19 symptoms.
Last reviewed at:
14 May 2021 - 4 min read
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