Many people that have been infected with COVID-19 might have had mild to moderate respiratory symptoms and recover without requiring any kind of special treatment or hospitalization. Some people might not have any symptoms at all.
But people that have breast cancer or are in treatment for breast cancer may be at higher risk for serious complications due to COVID-19. Many people that are getting treatment for breast cancer might have caused them to have a weakened immune system or even lung problems.
These breast cancer treatments can weaken the immune system:
• Standard chemotherapy drugs like Taxol, Taxotere, Cytoxan and carboplatin.
• Certain targeted therapies like Ibrance, Kisqali, Verzenio and Piqray.
The immune system should recover properly within a couple of months after you stop receiving chemotherapy or targeted therapy. Now remember, just because you have gotten these treatments in the past, doesn’t mean you are high risk. This is for patients that are receiving treatment for breast cancer at the current moment.
Some people with breast cancer may have other serious complications from COVID-19 if they are age 65 or older, have a serious heart condition, are obese, and have type 2 diabetes.
COVID-19 has also changed breast cancer care. COVID has delayed routine clinical visits, surveillance imaging, routine mammograms and more for those affected by breast cancer. COVID has also caused some level of anxiety for patients with breast cancer.
If you’re being treated for breast cancer during the COVID pandemic, here are some tips you can follow to help you navigate this uncertain time.
Don’t put off getting treatment. Don’t be afraid of catching COVID-19 at a clinic or hospital. Wear a mask, be socially distant and be safe. If you don’t feel safe, talk to you doctor or doctors about the precautions they are taking and how they could make you feel more comfortable.
Family and friends support. Since most of your appointments will have to be done alone, try having a family member or friend join you virtually at the appointment. Having someone join you virtually can be an extra set of ears and help provide emotional support.
Understand the pressure. We all know this is a difficult time for you, you have to understand all the challenges your medical team and doctors might be facing, as well. Your docs have to delay and might even have to change aspects of your treatments because of factors beyond their control.
Get a second opinion. If you don’t feel safe, comfortable or are getting good care, try getting a second opinion. Trying getting a new doctor or traveling to a different clinic or hospital in a different area.
Mental health. COVID is creating a lot of anxiety and depression among people including those affected by breast cancer. If this is something you are feeling, consider making a virtual appointment with a mental health professional or look for support groups in your area for people with breast cancer. Dealing with breast cancer and COVID at the same time can be very stressful. Make sure to talk about it with others and let them know everything you’re feeling.
COVID has affected just about every aspect of life for everyone especially those with breast cancer including screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow up care. Do what’s right and ask all the questions you need to so you could continue to get the treatment and support you need during this difficult time.
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