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Impacts of COVID-19 On Breast Cancer Patients

Published on Jun 28, 2021 and last reviewed on May 09, 2022   -  6 min read

Abstract

Read this article to know how COVID has impacted the screening, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care in people with breast cancer and what you can do to overcome them.

Contents
Impacts of COVID-19 On Breast Cancer Patients

What Is a Coronavirus Pandemic?

Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that is officially called COVID-19 that has changed many lives. This pandemic is a highly stressful event that may lead to significant psychological symptoms, especially in patients with cancer who are at greater risk of contracting viruses. These have generated many delays and disruptions in cancer care for people with breast cancer. Whether newly diagnosed, in active treatment, long-term survivorship, or living with metastatic breast cancer, they add extra anxiety and risk to an already challenging journey.

This article will tell about the frequency of stressors experienced concerning the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and its relationship with psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and fear of cancer recurrence in patients with breast cancer.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a lump or mass in the breast that appears different from the surrounding tissue. Women above 50 years are commonly affected, and the family history can increase the likelihood of the disease. If a woman has felt any lump in her breast or experiencing any soreness in or around her breast or discharge from her nipple, she should get her symptoms evaluated right away.

Breast cancer has one main intention to spread. Often, the first stop is in the lymph nodes, and as it advances, metastases can occur in distant parts of the body like the bones, lungs, liver, and brain. There may be swollen lymph nodes, bone pain, shortness of breath, or yellow skin in those with a distant spread of the disease. Some breast cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapies, can weaken the immune system and cause lung problems. These people have a higher risk of acquiring severe complications if they become infected with this virus. For most people, the immune system improves within a couple of months after performing these treatments. But recovery time of the immune system can vary and may depend on several factors. And if someone has received these treatments in the past, it is unclear whether they are at higher risk of acquiring severe complications from COVID-19. People with breast cancer with metastasis (spread) to the lungs can also get lung problems that may worsen if they contract COVID-19.

How Has COVID-19 Changed Breast Cancer Care?

People diagnosed with breast cancer and people at high risk for breast cancer have found themselves in a uniquely challenging and sometimes frightening position since the Coronavirus crisis began.

What Are the Widespread Delays and Interruptions in Breast Cancer Care During COVID Waves?

The COVID-19 has caused delays in many aspects of breast cancer care, including routine clinical visits, surveillance imaging, regular mammograms, reconstruction, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, mastectomy, and chemotherapy in the first wave. Patients also delay or change their treatment plans due to concerns about contracting COVID-19. And due to these interruptions in their care, many people were worried about their cancer growing or recurring. In addition, financial problems affecting their ability to pay for maintenance and losing their health insurance are the other concerns of people with breast cancer.

What Are the Risks of COVID-19 on Patients With Breast Cancer?

The virus has widely spread to many countries globally. However, since the number of cases differs in different regions, the immediate risk of coming into contact with the virus depends on the location. In addition, the risk of infection will continue to change over time as cases increase and decrease in different localities. Many women were not getting their mammography done, not going to the gynecologist, and not having a regular physical examination due to this pandemic.

What Are the Facts of COVID-19 Vaccines on Patients With Breast Cancer?

The first COVID-19 vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2020 for emergency use are the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.They are considered to be safe to administer in immunocompromised patients because they do not contain live viruses, including people being treated for cancer. Experts have also suggested most people with cancer or a history of cancer get a COVID-19 vaccine. Still, it would be best to talk to their doctor about whether getting vaccinated is the right decision for their situation.

The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines include:

Side Effects of COVID-19 Vaccine Associated With Breast Cancer:

What Is the Role of Telemedicine in Breast Cancer Care in This Pandemic?

Attempts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by Coronavirus, concentrate on limiting how much you communicate with people outside your household. However, one way the condition has changed life for many people with breast cancer is by offering telemedicine, a term for medical appointments conducted over the phone or video calls. Telemedicine affords a safe and consistent environment for routine monitoring and prescribing non-infusion therapies for low-risk patients with well-managed disease. In addition, oncologists specifically feel more comfortable using telemedicine for early-stage and specific subsets of patients with breast cancer, indicating a less complex decision-making process. Teleoncology, like other telehealth services, has several applications across different industries. For example, telepathology involves remote analysis and diagnosis based on television microscopy and such. It also provides remote supervision, palliative care, and tele-education.

Conclusion:

Battling breast cancer can cause significant stress and anxiety for both men and women, especially during the Coronavirus outbreak. But people need to overcome this with courage and strength. On the other hand, cancer type and cancer treatments did not show any risk of dying from COVID-19. But, if anyone is very concerned about how the specific breast cancer treatments may affect the ability to recover from COVID-19, they should talk to their doctor and decide on a treatment plan that gives both of them peace of mind. In the past few years, cancer care has gone through some positive changes, one of which is the rise in telemedicine.

Last reviewed at:
09 May 2022  -  6 min read

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