COVID-19 Q&A

University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) understands cancer patients' unique concerns about COVID-19. We want to help keep cancer patients safe while receiving the care they need.

Our experts answer questions on how this virus affects cancer patients and what steps you and your loved ones can take during this time.

Coronavirus Risk and Cancer

Am I at high risk for getting sick if exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19)?

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

What cancer patients are considered immunocompromised?

All cancer patients should be careful to protect themselves from infection during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Patients who are actively receiving chemotherapy, or recently completed a course of chemotherapy or radiation, should be particularly careful. Similarly, those who have had a bone marrow transplant should be cautious.

How long past cancer treatment am I considered immunocompromised?

This varies significantly from patient to patient and depends on the treatment you received. If you are unsure, ask your oncologist.

How do I protect myself from coronavirus while getting cancer treatment?

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces frequently
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay at home except for your essential treatment appointments – have food, medicine, etc. delivered
  • Screen all those you may come in contact with for coronavirus symptoms, including family. If the answer is yes to any of the following, do not allow them to be in the same room with you:
  • Do you have a fever of 100.0 or above?
  • Do you have symptoms of a cold or flu including sore throat, cough, chills, or body aches?
  • Are you experiencing new shortness of breath?

Is it safe to cancel my appointment, wait to have my lab work, or hold or stop my treatment?

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, UMGCCC limits clinic visits to those patients who are actively receiving treatment or have an urgent medical issue related to their cancer treatment. Talk to your oncologist to see if your visit can be delayed.

If I get coronavirus will my cancer move to my lungs or am I then at risk of developing lung cancer?

There is no evidence that coronavirus changes the behavior of any cancer. Our concern for cancer patients is that coronavirus complications appear to be more common in cancer patients than the rest of the population.

What should I do if I think I (or my spouse) have coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Call the Nurse Call Line. UMGCCC patients may call the assistance line at 410-328-7609 for issues related to their cancer care.

Safety

Should I wear a mask?

At the present time, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone wear at least a cloth mask in public. Patients who have had an allogeneic bone marrow transplant are generally advised to wear masks. Masks primarily help prevent the wearer from spreading germs to others; they are less effective in protecting the wearer from infection. Current temporary restrictions require everyone to wear masks in all UMMS facilities.

Should I wear gloves?

No. Good hand hygiene is your best protection. The coronavirus (COVID-19) gets on your gloves just as easily as it gets on your hands. If you visit UMGCCC's Stoler pavilion, you will be asked to remove your gloves and wash with hand sanitizer.

Am I at risk of developing coronavirus (COVID-19) after accepting a delivery?

It is unlikely as long as you practice good hand hygiene. After accepting the delivery, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Also, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

What can I do to help boost my immune system during this time?

Continue with healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet and getting physical activity or exercise.

Going Out in Public

Should I go to the grocery store?

No. You should have someone else go if they can or set up delivery.

Should I make my spouse take off their clothes before coming in the house after being out?

This is unnecessary as long as your spouse does not work directly with coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.

I don't have family and I need to go to the pharmacy or grocery store, what should I do?

Go first thing in the morning. Some grocery stores are limiting the first hour to the elderly and patients with health concerns, maintain 6 feet distance, don't touch your face while out, and wash hands as soon as you get home.

Should I stop working?

It is advised that everyone stay at home if they are not involved in essential services. If appropriate, telework is advisable. If you are uncertain, check with your oncologist.