COVID-19 & Cancer: FAQs

Mar 17, 2020 | Justin McClanahan, Moderator | @JustinMcClanahan

For evolving up-to-date information on COVID-19 from Mayo Clinic, refer to the Mayo Clinic News Network
and the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center

If you are feeling isolated due to the recent urging of social distancing by federal and state governments, join the COVID-19 digital support group here on Mayo Clinic Connect.


A message from Mayo Clinic Hematologist, Dr. Rafael Fonseca:

COVID-19: What patients with cancer should know

Additional FAQs from the CDC

Because cancer treatments weaken the body’s immune system, cancer patients are among those at risk for serious illness from COVID-19. The CDC recommends that people at higher risk for COVID-19:

  • Take precautions to keep space between yourself and others. Avoid close contact with people who are sick and:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after visiting a public place.
    • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
    • Avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
    • Avoid shaking hands.
    • Clean and disinfect high-tough surfaces in your home routinely.
    • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.
    • Avoid all non-essential travel including plane trips, and especially avoid cruise ships.
    • If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay home as much as possible and consider having food delivered.
  • Stock up on supplies:
    • If you take medication, contact your care team to ask about obtaining extra medication to have on hand in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community and you need to stay home for a prolonged period of time.
    • Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines, tissues and other medical supplies to treat fever and other symptoms. Most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.
    • Have enough household items and groceries on hand so that you will be prepared to stay at home for a period of time.
  • Have a plan in case you get sick:
    • Talk to your care team for more information about monitoring your health for symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Stay in touch with others by phone or email. You may need to ask for help from friends, family, neighbors, or community health workers if you become sick.
    • Determine who can help you if your caregiver gets sick.
  • Watch for symptoms and emergency warning signs. Pay attention for potential COVID-19 symptoms including, fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call your healthcare provider to let them know. This will help them take care of you and keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs might include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all-inclusive. Please seek medical attention for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Should I wear a face mask?

If you are a cancer patient, you should only wear a face mask if your care provider has recommended that you do so because you are at high risk for infection from causes other than COVID-19. If your care provider has not made this recommendation and you are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you should not wear a face mask.

I need to fly to Mayo Clinic for chemotherapy. Is it safe to do so?

This is a rapidly evolving situation with significant potential for travel restrictions and advisories. Depending on your circumstances, your care team may recommend that you seek care closer to home or seek temporary housing close to your Mayo Clinic location. Talk to your care team about what is best for you.

I need to travel to Mayo Clinic to participate in a cancer clinical trial. Is it safe to do so?

Talk to your study team about any concerns you have about traveling to participate in a clinical trial.


Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Hematology blog.

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