People with cancer and their doctors are under extreme stress with COVID-19. It’s difficult enough to have cancer without the pandemic. Here are the flash points:
- Elective surgery has been suspended in all COVD hot spots. The OR’s are reserved for emergencies like bronchoscopies and tracheostomies, and all ventilators based in OR’s are being canibalized to makeshift ICU’s. So if you need a repeat tumor biopsy to look for new mutations to guide future treatment, you are out of luck.
- Cancer patients on anti-cancer systemic therapy have dramatically weakened immune systems, so if they get COVID-19 they are much more likely to die.
- Many of the cancer drugs in use today cause lung and/or kidney damage — huge risk factors for death if you get COVID.
- You can do a lot with telemedicine, including doctor visits on Zoom, but you can’t give chemo on Zoom. Just entering the hospital or a clinic, where all treatments are given is a risk factor for getting COVID-19.
- Delay in chemo is of little consequence in some situations, where the goal is palliation, but if you have a disease like leukemia or lymphoma where the timing of treatment is crucial, there will be roadblocks to getting your care on time because resources are being drained by the sickest patients.
There is nothing to do about any of these things. All we can do is wait it out. To all my former cancer patients, and cancer patients in general, Be patient and careful.