Coronavirus and Cancer: What You Need to Know

March 23, 2020
What's most important for poeple with cancer is to apply measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There's no need to take special precautions unless your doctor indicates otherwise. Today we'll tell you more about coronavirus and cancer.

One of the myths that exist regarding coronavirus is that it only seriously affects older adults. However, that’s not the case. Any person that has a weakened immunological system is at risk for suffering from COVID-19 to a greater degree. Among them are people with cancer or those who are undergoing certain treatments related to this illness.

Every virus must overcome the defenses of the immune system of each individual to settle in and cause illness. This is no less true when it comes to viruses like the famous new coronavirus, now known as SARS-CoV-2. These defenses tend to be weaker in persons with cancer and other chronic illness. Those who are undergoing treatments that reduce their immunity also have weaker defenses.

It’s important to point out emphatically that people with cancer aren’t at greater risk of contracting the illness. They’re just as likely to catch it as anyone else. However, if they do get their virus, then they may be prone to suffering a more virulent attack that produces symptoms that are much more severe.

Coronavirus and cancer: How to protect people with cancer

Theirs no big difference in preventative measures when it comes to coronavirus and cancer. Basically, they should follow the same indications that everyone else does, but more rigorously. The best way to protect themselves is by avoiding social contact to a maximum degree. Isolation and distancing are the ideal means of preventing infection.

When we talk about avoiding contact with others, we’re not just referring to restricting contact with strangers. This includes family members and those who are part of one’s normal routine. What’s more, it means not greeting others with a handshake or hugs, except when absolutely certain that the other person does not have the virus.

It’s a good idea to wear disposable gloves, if possible, when receiving packages. The same is true if individuals must leave the house for some reason. These measures obey a simple logic: The less exposure people have to the virus, the less likely they are to get infected.

Coronavirus and cancer.
Oncological patients undergoing treatment have a weakened immune system which can lead to complications in the case of coronavirus infection.

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Hygiene is a crucial factor

The SARS-CoV-2 is very vulnerable to soap and water. These microorganisms have an outer membrane of lipids – or oil – that soap easily destroys. Without this outer membrane, the virus disintegrates. Therefore, washing your hands is more important than ever.

In the face of this recommendation, many ask if they should wash their hands because the virus enters through the skin. The answer is no. This hygiene measure is important for reasons that we’ll explain using an example:

Let’s say that a mailman has the virus and coughs near the package he’s about to deliver. The person that receives the package has no idea and picks up the package without precaution. The virus may spread to the receiver’s hands, but that’s not enough to produce infection. However, if the receiver then touches his or her face, then the SARS-CoV-2 will have the opportunity to enter the body through the mouth, nose, or eyes. This will produce contagion.

We don’t tend to be completely attentive to what we touch throughout the day. Therefore, it’s best to wash your hands frequentlyIf the virus is still there, it will disappear and there will be no risk. If the virus isn’t, in fact, present, then it’s still good to acquire the habit of handwashing. After all, today the virus may not be present. However, tomorrow it could be.

Washing hands with soap and water.
Washing your hands with soap and water is one of the most effective measures against coronavirus

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Coronavirus and Cancer: Other measures of control

The New England Complex Systems Institute, one of the centers that have been collecting recommendations for several months recommends creating safe zones, starting in your home. This simply means making sure that the virus doesn’t enter your home or a specific area.

The best way to achieve this is by making sure that everyone that lives in a home or frequents the area complies with hygiene and contact recommendations. It also means no longer receiving visitors.  If visitors do enter the home or area, they should wear a mask, wash their hands, and maintain physical distance.

It’s good to look for a way to stock up on medications – enough for a month or two, if possible. If the health system collapses, supplies may be cut off, which would be serious. At the same time, it’s important to clean surfaces and objects that people touch relatively frequently. Simply wipe them down with a washcloth with soap or bleach, especially doorknobs and light switches.

When it comes to coronavirus and cancer, patients should be extra careful at this time. However, that doesn’t mean panicking, being obsessive, or allowing fear to take over. It all comes down to adopting new habits that, after a few days, will come as second nature.