08:48 AM

Cancer Doesn't Stop During COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing undue stress to everyone, especially those who are already receiving treatment for cancer. While this is a challenging time, we want our patients and their families to know we continue to be here for you. 

At Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute, providers and nurses are working together to ensure your treatment stays on track and your risks for contracting COVID-19 are minimized. Nurses are reviewing all patient charts and relaying information about increased risks based on where patients are in their treatment back to physicians. We are basing our decisions as to what treatments, scans and labs can be delayed on that information to ensure everyone’s safety. 

The impacts of COVID-19 may mean temporary changes for your protection and for the safety of our caregivers. Even still, our team is committed to providing personalized, compassionate care for you and your family. Ranju Gupta, MD, medical oncologist with Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute, answers some of the most frequently asked questions from cancer patients and those currently receiving treatment.

Should I still go to my appointment?

You should still keep all appointments that have not been rescheduled. In order to keep you safe and limit the number of people you come into contact with, we have made changes to how we see patients. We are limiting the number of patients who are seen in the office and using telemedicine and LVHN Video Visits when appropriate. Please be assured that if you do need to go into an office for treatment or an appointment, it is safe.

How do I protect myself from the coronavirus while undergoing treatment for cancer?

The most important thing that you can do at this time to protect yourself from contracting COVID-19 is stay home except for your essential treatment appointments. Have food and medicines delivered and avoid going to the grocery store or anywhere else. You should also avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. 

Some other helpful tips include:

  • 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.

  • 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?

How can I protect myself when I come into the office?

We are doing everything we can to ensure your safety when you come to your treatment and appointments. Before entering any of our facilities, everyone must be screened, which includes a temperature and symptom check. 

Everyone must also have a mask on. If you don’t have one you will be given a reusable cloth mask. You should wear your mask to every appointment. We have also included directions on how to wash and care for your mask. 

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

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are limiting 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. Talk to your oncologist to see if your lab work, scans and treatment can be delayed. We are constantly assessing the risks and benefits of chemotherapy in each case. You can have a virtual visit with your oncologist to discuss these concerns. 

Should I be going to the grocery store?

Outside of essential treatment appointments, try to avoid going other places, including the grocery store. You can order groceries online or have someone else do your shopping. 

If you absolutely have to go to the store yourself, go first thing in the morning. Some grocery stores are limiting the first hour to the elderly and patients with health concerns. While at the store make sure you wear a mask and maintain a six-foot distance from others and avoid touching your face. If you have hand sanitizer, keep it in your car to use as needed. If you don’t have hand sanitizer, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds as soon as you get home. 

Should I wear a mask at home if there are people who have been at work or leaving the house? 

You don’t need to wear your mask at home as long as no one works directly with COVID-19 patients and is healthy.

What should I do if I notice anything new or have symptoms?

If you notice any additional new or worsening symptoms, call your provider’s office immediately and they will discuss next steps. 

Should I use gloves when I go to the store?

We do not routinely recommend people wear gloves in stores because people forget and are touching their faces with gloves on. Gloves can be worn in stores but should be discarded as you leave the store and remember to NOT touch your face while wearing gloves.

Will my cancer surgery get canceled due to COVID -19 pandemic?

We realize cancer surgeries are very important for the health and well-being of our cancer patients. Patients are our number one priority, and for some, surgeries are being done. However, if a particular person's cancer surgery is not urgent and a delay will not affect his or her outcome, then that surgery will be postponed.

These decisions are based on national guidelines as well as discussions with Cancer Institute physicians. Please be assured if you need surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, it will be provided in a timely manner.

Stay up to date with coronavirus (COVID-19) information at LVHN.org/COVID19.