I’m a cancer patient--do I need to take extra precautions about COVID-19?

If you are being treated for cancer, it is possible you are at increased risk for getting seriously ill with COVID-19.

Make a plan with your doctor

One of the most common side effects of many cancer treatments is immunosuppression. This means that your immune system is less able to fight off infections. How much your immune system is suppressed can depend on your type of cancer and treatment regimen. It’s important to talk to your doctor and learn about your risk.

Cancer can put you at increased risk for severe infection from COVID-19

A recent study found that patients whose cancer was recently diagnosed were at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. People with certain types of cancers, including leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or lung cancer, were at the highest risk if they were diagnosed in the last year. For Black patients, the cancers that had the highest risk were breast, prostate, colorectal or lung cancer.

Manage your risk

There is so much about the pandemic that is hard for everyone. Fighting cancer at the same time means that you need to be even more careful. Remember the basics of avoiding infection to help reduce your risk: People, Place, Time, and Space. This is even more important if your immune system is suppressed, since you can become infected more easily and can have a harder time fighting off the virus. 

You may decide to avoid even lower risk activities (like going to the grocery store). But when you do go out, you don’t need to wear a Hazmat suit to leave your home! Just make sure to find a good mask that fits properly. Ask your doctor if they recommend a surgical mask or N95. And as always, wash your hands.

Last update: December 18, 2020, 4:29 pm ET

Science review: ERS, GSN