What does COVID-19 mean for cancer patients?

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc around the world. Just as we started to breathe a sigh of relief here in Australia that we’d got it under control, new outbreaks in Victoria have everyone on edge, especially cancer patients.

So, what kind of impact is coronavirus having on people with cancer? And what does it mean for you if you’re undergoing breast cancer treatment? 

Sadly, it’s predicted that coronavirus could lead to thousands of additional cancer deaths. This is due to a delay in cancer diagnosis and treatment, as hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Scientists suggest there could be at least 7,000 extra cancer deaths in the UK within one year – a figure that could reach as high as 35,000 in a worst-case scenario.

No doubt Australia is facing similar challenges. However, if you’re currently being treated for breast cancer, it’s so important that you continue your treatment.

According to the McGrath Foundation, doctors are increasingly concerned that people are not attending their medical appointments due to COVID-19. There has been a significant decrease in GP visits during the coronavirus crisis, with medical experts estimating that the diagnosis of new cancers in Australia is down by 20%.

Why is this happening? People are anxious about leaving their homes to get tested and treated. They’re also concerned about putting extra pressure on an already strained health system.

But if you are considering not attending your appointments due to coronavirus, stop right there! You are in the fight of your life! You cannot compromise your health any further by putting COVID-19 before your needs.

It’s understandable that you may be feeling anxious about leaving home to attend appointments. But remember, cancer treatments, scans and tests are still being conducted as usual in Australia, with extra precautions in place to safeguard you. If you have any concerns about the timing of your scans or tests, contact your breast cancer clinician or GP for advice. 

Cancer patients are among the most vulnerable when it comes to coronavirus infection. Protect yourself as much as you can by:

  • Ensure you have adequate prescription and over-the-counter medications.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. Dry with a paper towel or hand dryer if possible.
  • Avoid large crowds, especially in closed-in settings.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid touching high-touch surfaces, such as elevator buttons and door handles.
  • Avoid unnecessary use of public transport and non-essential travel.
  • Ask friends and family to stay away if they are sick.
  • If you begin to experience any symptoms or believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, call your GP or specialist for advice or the 24-hour coronavirus hotline IMMEDIATELY.

And if a friend or family member is experiencing any new, persistent symptom, encourage them to contact their GP for telehealth or face-to-face appointment. The world may be fighting coronavirus, but we cannot for a moment stop our fight against cancer.

If you need to reach out, please visit the FUUK Cancer Facebook page or say hello.


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