What cancer patients need to know about coronavirus?

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Cancer patients with reduced immunity are the group particularly susceptible to viral diseases. Find out who is at risk and what preventive measures to implement to minimize the risk of contracting the virus.

“Coronavirus” is the common name for the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). The COVID-19 disease appeared in China in December 2019. In the current period, the disease has been reported in all European Union countries.

Who is particularly at risk from the coronavirus?

Not everyone will get COVID-19, but some are at risk assessment. Elderly patients suffering from chronic lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancer are especially valuable for infections and complications. Among cancer patients there are people with weakened immunity, blood cancers, people receiving active chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant patients who require special attention.

What symptoms should arouse alertness?

The virus is transmitted by airborne droplets, most commonly when coughing and sneezing, and can survive for several hours on surfaces such as door handles, furniture, and clothes. It is estimated that, on average, one infected person can infect two to three others. The incubation period, which is the time between exposure to the virus and the onset of symptoms, is 2 to 14 days.

Symptoms are characterized by high fever, dry cough, shortness of breath and muscle aches. The vast majority of those who contract the new coronavirus will experience mild symptoms and will be treated at home. In the severe course of the disease, pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome develop, which can lead to death.

What precautions should patients take?

Careful observance of basic hygiene rules helps to protect against contamination. The World Health Organization recommends:

• washing hands with water and soap (for at least 20 seconds) or alcohol-based solutions (over 60%) or other disinfectants;

• keep at least 1 meter distance from you and anyone who is coughing or sneezing;

• avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth (the way the virus enters the body);

• airway hygiene – covering the mouth and nose with bent elbow when coughing or sneezing;

• staying home if you feel unwell;

• Avoiding travel, especially to COVID-19 infection locations.

Cancer patients, especially those undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and their relatives, should follow the above rules as an adjunct to standard cancer treatment. Due to the dynamic development of the situation and the well-being of patients, it is worth considering minimizing contacts with other people and staying in public places.

Author: Joanna Frątczak Kazana

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