With the first cases of COVID-19 reported in Colorado, CU Cancer Center reached out to Thomas Campbell, MD, Professor in the CU School of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases to ask what cancer patients should do to keep themselves safe.
“It’s patients who have recently had chemo, radiation, stem cell transplants – patients who are immunosuppressed are the ones I worry about the most,” Campbell says.
However, due to the newness of the disease, there is a lack of data describing specifically if and how COVID-19 might differently affect cancer patients. Campbell points to a recent analysis of 44,672 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in China.
“In this study, only 107 had cancer, and it’s hard to tell from these few patients if there are differences for people with cancer,” Campbell says.
Campbell also suggests that cancer patients are a diverse group, representing a range of patients from those with strong underlying health to those with significant challenges. This leads Campbell to make the following recommendation:
“Cancer patients should take the same precautions as others in high-risk populations,” he says. “Pay close attention to personal hygiene, washing hands, keeping hands away from your face and mouth, nose, and eyes. Avoid contact with people who have respiratory tract illnesses.”
Campbell also points out that the COVID-19 situation in Colorado and beyond is evolving, meaning that cancer patients may need to update their protective behaviors along with future recommendations for at-risk populations. Helpful updated information is available from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“It’s not just COVID-19 but influenza. There are a lot of nasty respiratory illnesses out there,” Campbell says. “These recommendations are especially important in light of COVID-19, but these measures help protect our patients from other dangerous infectious diseases as well.”