COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted all areas of life including healthcare. It has affected everyone but most importantly cancer patients as they are already fighting with a chronic disease and are the most vulnerable group to the COVID-19. They are facing a serious dilemma as a combination of cancer and COVID-19 is lethal. Breast cancer patients are worried, nervous and fearing about visiting hospitals for treatment because it increases the risk of catching the coronavirus. On the other hand, staying at home, skipping a dose and delaying the treatment can increase the risk of cancer progression.
Some chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs in the treatment of breast cancer, cause depletion of white blood cells (immune system) that fight infection. So, people who are undergoing treatment have a significantly higher risk of getting seriously ill if they catch coronavirus. Patients need to take extra care and follow social distancing rules strictly. If you are practising social distancing and still meeting some close friends and family members considering them safe as they are healthy, then you are mistaken. Some people infected with the virus have no symptoms even for weeks and can infect you so they could infect you. So, maintain distance and remain in contact with friends and family over the phone.
The pandemic has challenged healthcare providers too. They need to evaluate the effect of delays in diagnoses and treatment on cancer and should find ways to minimize the effects considering the future situation of corona pandemic and lockdown. Re-organizing and redefining the procedures are crucial to reduce the hospital visits of the patents without compromising their treatment. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy should continue during the pandemic but with “extreme caution.” It is crucial to develop a healthcare system for breast cancer patients with appropriate protocols and guidelines to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 and to offer the best possible care to patients.
Dr. Huma Majeed, a senior Breast Surgeon has suggested breast cancer patients use a double mask and cover their nose properly. although gloves are not so much effective in stopping the spread of coronavirus, they can still be used as a reminder that we should not touch our face unnecessarily.
The best line of defence in the current situation is boosting the immune system which requires a healthy lifestyle, practice of good hygiene and minimizing stress. A healthy lifestyle includes a good diet and people who have breast cancer should take vitamin A, C and D. Yogurt, orange and red fruits, vegetables, eggs, fresh fish, nuts, mushrooms and lentils can help you enhance the immune system. Getting adequate sleep and combating with negative self-talk and stress is the most important thing for patients. The stress hormone can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system and its ability to fight against ailments.