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The new coronavirus (COVID-19)—what you need to know as a cancer patient, survivor or caregiver

March 23, 2020

Last updated March 23, 2020

A new respiratory virus, COVID-19, has been spreading around the world and was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020.

If you’re a cancer patient, survivor or caregiver, you may be wondering what this means for you. “Social distancing,” the recommended practice to minimize your exposure and slow the spread of the virus, can be particularly difficult when you are dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

[man speaking on phone]For patients, survivors and caregivers looking for support, our friends at Cancer Support Community have you covered. You can utilize MyLifeLine.org to keep your family up to date on your cancer journey or join more than 2,000 online discussion boards with people sharing the same experience.

You can also access the CSC’s helpline (with services in English and Spanish) by phone at 1-888-793-9355 or live chat. The helpline is staffed by counselors and resource specialists Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. ET. The helpline is now featuring extended hours Saturday-Sunday from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. ET to support additional requests as a result of COVID-19 concerns.

Then catch a special episode this week of Frankly Speaking About Cancer, which will address questions from cancer patients and caregivers about COVID-19.

Need more information?

You can find more information on COVID-19 and how it spreads, how it is treated and more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While most people who get COVID-19 will experience mild symptoms (and some may not have any symptoms at all), there are some people at higher risk of series illness if exposed to COVID-19, including:

  • Adults over the age of 60
  • People with serious health conditions, including lung disease and cancer

What are the symptoms?

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and can mimic flu-like symptoms. They include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

In most cases, people recover with rest and at-home treatment. In some cases, patients will need to be hospitalized, and infection can lead to serious, and sometimes fatal, illness.

How can I protect myself?

There is currently not vaccine to prevent against COVID-19. The best ways to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community include:

  • Prevent being exposed to the virus by practicing social distancing. Stay home as much as possible, and when you must go out, keep at least 6 feet of space between yourself and other people.
  • Wash your hands frequently, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow instead of your hand.
  • If you are sick, call your doctor for guidance before going in.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Do your best to continue taking care of your health. The Prevent Cancer Foundation and Cancer Support Community are here to support you during these uncertain times. Check out our 7 Steps for more ways to live a healthy lifestyle.

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