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The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) strives to go beyond treating the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and preventing its spread. Our goal is to help all of our patients, particularly those with conditions like cancer, navigate these difficult times.

Coronavirus and Cancer Treatment

You might be wondering how high your risk of getting sick is if you’re exposed to coronavirus as a cancer patient.

All patients receiving, or recently completing, cancer treatment are considered to be immunocompromised and at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.

Those patients actively receiving chemotherapy, or recently completing a course of chemotherapy or radiation, should be particularly careful. Similarly, those who have had a bone marrow transplant should be cautious.

Speak to your oncologist if you’re unsure how long past cancer treatment you are considered immunocompromised, as it can vary significantly from patient to patient.

If you’re actively receiving cancer treatment, follow these steps to protect yourself from the virus.

You may be considering canceling appointments, waiting to have lab work or even stopping your treatment. The best course of action is to talk to your oncologist. Many UMMS cancer programs offer telemedicine options for your convenience. Contact your doctor by phone or use MyPortfolio to send a secure message.

Coronavirus and Lung Cancer

If you’re concerned that coming down with coronavirus could make your cancer move to your lungs or that you’re at risk of developing lung cancer, there is no evidence at this time that coronavirus changes the behavior of any cancer.

The concern for cancer patients is that coronavirus complications appear to be more common in cancer patients than the rest of the population.

Leaving Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Let’s say you do have to leave your home for an essential service, such as grocery shopping or medical visits. What then? Well, cancer patients have options.

First, try to have food and medicines delivered. It’s unlikely you’ll get sick with coronavirus after accepting a delivery as long as you practice good hand hygiene.

If a delivery is not possible, definitely wear a mask when you go out in public. Gloves do not provide much protection, since coronavirus gets on your gloves just as easily as it gets on your hands. Also, go to the store first thing in the morning. Some stores are limiting the first hour to the elderly and patients with health concerns.

If you do go out, or have a spouse who goes out, it is unnecessary to make them take off their clothes before coming in the home, as long as your spouse does not work directly with coronavirus patients.

COVID-19 Prevention for Cancer Patients

There are many factors cancer patients do have control over during this time. For example, continue with healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet and getting exercise to help boost your immune system.

If appropriate, continue working but remotely. Everyone is advised to stay at home if their work isn't part of essential services, but check with your oncologist if you’re uncertain whether continuing to work is right for you.

If you think you, or anyone who lives with you, has coronavirus, call the Nurse Call Line for assistance.

Remember that even though cancer patients especially must practice social distancing, you are not alone. UMMS is here to help keep cancer patients safe while they receive the care they need.

Thanks to our UMGCCC Experts:

  • Kevin J. Cullen, MD, – Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Distinguished Professor of Oncology, Director of UMGCCC
  • Michael E. Kleinberg, MD – Associate Professor of Medicine, Infectious Disease, University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC)
  • Paula M. Rosenblatt, MD – Assistant Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology, UMMC
  • Mary McQuaige, BSN, RN, OCN – Breast Oncology Nurse Navigator, UMGCCC
  • Jessica Cross, MS, RN, OCN – Breast Oncology Nurse Coordinator, UMGCCC

Find questions and answers from University of Maryland Medical Center experts in our COVID-19 Q&A series.