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Your Healthy Family: Continuing cancer care despite COVID-19 concerns

Posted at 8:12 AM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 10:12:12-04

CLEVELAND, OHIO — The first Monday in May is known as ‘Melanoma Monday.’

Whether you’re fighting melanoma, or any other type of cancer, staying on top of treatment is important.

But, due to COVID-19, some people are fearful of the virus and hesitant to seek care.

Dale Shepard, M.D., Ph.D., an oncologist at Cleveland Clinic, said when it comes to fighting cancer, everyone’s infection risk is different.

“There are certainly people who are more immunosuppressed than others,” he said. “I think we have found that cancer patients in general aren’t necessarily more likely to get infections. But, certainly if they are in the middle of a treatment, and they are bone marrow suppressed, and their immune system is weakened, that is more of a factor.”

Dr. Shepard said there are many treatments for cancer – and some shouldn’t be delayed.

Some people may be getting chemotherapy to minimize the risk of cancer returning, while others may have advanced stage cancer, and need therapies to help them live longer or control symptoms.

And then there are active tumors that need to be treated with surgery or chemotherapy right away.

Dr. Shepard said some cancer treatments are timelier than others, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re concerned and thinking about skipping an appointment.

“I think the biggest thing is communication, so patients who are undergoing cancer care, if they have questions or concerns call us, make sure we talk through issues,” said Dr. Shepard. “We can see if there are things that can be done to minimize the risk, but most importantly, we hope the patients don’t stay away for concerns and they reach out and talk to us.”

Dr. Shepard said COVID-19 is serious – but cancer is too.

He said that the best way to beat cancer is to find it early and get treatment.

If someone notices new lumps, bumps, or concerning symptoms – like blood during a bowel movement – they should contact their doctor.