Guidance for Cancer Patients During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives in Western New York. While there is hope that we may return to some form of normalcy in the coming months, the situation can change rapidly, so it’s important to stay up to date with guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the New York State and Erie County Departments of Health. Additionally, cancer patients and their loved ones may be looking for guidance when it comes to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are answers to some of the questions most often asked by \
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center patients and caregivers.

Q: As a cancer patient, will I be affected more severely if I get the virus?

Right now, we don’t have enough information to know if this is the case. We do know that cancer patients who are in treatment have weaker immune systems than healthy people, and other viruses tend to hit harder in people who are immunocompromised. That’s why you should follow precautions very carefully.

Q: Should I wear a mask when going out in public?

Yes. Everyone is now required to wear a mask in public in any situation where it’s not possible to maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet from others. The CDC recommends this practice for everyone across the country. Remember that even when you are wearing a mask, hand washing is your best defense against infection.

If you do not have a mask, you can use a scarf or other fabric to cover both your nose and mouth.

Q: Should I still go to the hospital for my appointments?

You should speak to your care provider on how your treatment should proceed during the pandemic. It will depend on your diagnosis, types of treatment, current disease status and other medical conditions. 

When it comes to cancer care, it is important that you make an informed decision about how to proceed with your care. “Very few of our cancer cases are considered elective,” says John M. Kane III, MD, FACS, Chair of Surgical Oncology at Roswell Park. “We’re a cancer center. We have to treat cancer. It doesn’t go away in a pandemic, just like heart attacks and heart disease and trauma don’t go away. And we have the necessary precautions in place to do it safely.”

At Roswell Park, instead of coming to campus for a traditional face-to-face appointment, you may be eligible for a virtual visit with a Roswell Park provider via video chat.