What you need to know about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a breast cancer patient
If you have breast cancer, you probably have many questions and concerns about COVID-19 … is it safe to continue my treatments, should I cancel my doctor appointments, should I self-quarantine?
At Comprehensive Breast Care, we want to make sure you stay as healthy, protected and safe as possible, and receive the most credible information regarding COVID-19.
The information below comes from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), two organizations we consider the best health and medical experts in the world – experts whose guidance we are following in our practice and with our patients.
Please note: Comprehensive Breast Care is not cancelling treatments or appointments for our cancer patients. We are still accepting new consultations and new patients. We will review each case to determine if it is appropriate for a face-to-face visit or a telemedicine visit.
If you have a fever, cough, runny nose or shortness of breath (the symptoms of COVID-19), please call our office before coming in for your appointment. We will advise you on what to do.
Phone visits or telemedicine are a good alternative if you are concerned about meeting with us in person. If you have an office visit scheduled and prefer to stay home, call our office to see if we can arrange a phone visit or telemedicine visit with you. In some cases, a face to face visit may be necessary; we will advise you on precautionary measures to take prior to your arrival.
There may be treatment alternatives that will keep you out of a clinic or hospital. Talk with your physician about these alternatives to determine if they will work for your situation. Often, treatments are time sensitive and you cannot delay them. Your doctor will discuss how to receive your treatments safely and effectively. Treatment centers are taking additional precautionary measures such as prescreening patients, limiting visitors and conducting treatments in isolation rooms as needed.
It is important to know that, even though the risk of contracting COVID-19 is very low, some breast cancer patients – especially those undergoing treatments – are at a higher risk of complications because treatments can weaken the immune system.
Take steps to reduce your risk. Many cancer centers have candy bowls, food and drinks, puzzles and magazines in their waiting areas. Avoid touching these.
It is important to differentiate between an urgent need to be seen compared to a less urgent need that can wait without causing any issues or additional complications for you. Our staff will discuss this with to help determine your level of urgency. In general, here are some guidelines:
What is considered urgent:
- Breast cancer
- An abnormal mammogram (our staff can help determine if you need an office visit or a virtual visit)
- A new breast mass
What is considered not as dangerous (an appointment can be made at a later date):
- Breast pain
- Non-bloody nipple discharge
- Breast cysts
- High risk
Here are a few more steps you can take to minimize your risk of contracting COVID-19:
- Wash your hands often, thoroughly, and frequently – with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating, after coughing or sneezing, and after using the bathroom. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Apply the gel liberally and let it dry. It takes about 20 seconds for the sanitizer to work.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick or coughing and sneezing.
- Avoid large crowds.
- Keep a distance of at least six feet from yourself and other people.
- Avoid shaking hands or hugging.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your arm.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (phones, keys, light switches and doorknobs are easily forgotten areas to clean). Wear gloves when you disinfect and throw them away each time.
- Only wear a protective mask if you are sick and show symptoms of COVID-19. The CDC does not recommend face masks for healthy people as protection from respiratory diseases including COVID-19. A mask does not help with prevention. Your cancer treatment center may recommend you wear a mask when you enter the facility if you are sick or exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.
- Minimize your time in your treatment center. Arrive at the time of your appointment. If you arrive early, please wait in your car and call the center to see if appointments are running on time. Try to remain in your vehicle until your treatment time.
- If you are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19, call your physician before you arrive for your appointment. This way you and the entire clinic and staff can be fully prepared for your visit.
Your health and safety is our primary concern. Please follow the advice of your health care team and obtain information from credible sources.
Here are a few:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC.gov/COVID-19
- World Health Organization: who.int
- Breastcancer.org: breastcancer.org