Doctor talking to a patient.

While the coronavirus’ fatality rate is considered low, about 2%, we do know that individuals with existing health conditions like cancer will be at greater risk for more severe infection and additional complications.

Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19), like the flu and pneumonia, is an illness of the respiratory system. Anyone with cancer, undergoing treatment for cancer or recovering from that treatment will be at higher risk for complications for this illness.

Here is some of our doctors’ advice that anyone with compromised immunity or coexisting health conditions will find helpful:

Coronavirus Spread Among Cancer Patients
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You can help stop the spread of germs by always covering your coughs, washing your hands and personal items like phones and keyboards thoroughly and frequently and avoiding touching your face. These steps not only help prevent you from spreading germs but also minimize your contact with others’ germs. Also, maintain healthy eating and exercise, manage your stress and protect your sleep.

  • Doctor’s Advice: This isn’t a time to panic: practice good hygiene, social distancing and protect your health.

Coronavirus Incubation & Symptoms in Cancer Patients
The incubation period for coronavirus is 2-14 days, and the symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you note these, it’s wise to follow CDC advice which is to call your doctor immediately and let them know you’d like to come in for testing. With current CDC guidelines recommending avoidance of gatherings of 50 or more, and with more recent guidelines lowering this number to 10 or less, you should restrict activities outside your home, except for urgent medical care, separate yourself from others and stay home as much as possible.

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  • Doctor’s Advice: Practice self-awareness and report anything that seems off or different about your health.

Cancer Treatment through Coronavirus
If someone with cancer does contract coronavirus, we may need to suspend or delay their cancer treatments to protect their immune system, which is already working overtime, to support their long-term health. We’ll also want to know if anyone in your household or immediate networks (family you saw last week, your neighbor, dental hygienist or another healthcare provider) has contracted the virus.

  • Doctor’s Advice: Keep your entire care team advised if anyone you know has contracted or is being monitored or tested for the virus.

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Jack Steel, MD, FACRO, is a board-certified Radiation Oncologist with more than 20 years of brachytherapy experience. He has performed over 4,000 prostate seed implant procedures. Additionally, Steel has extensive training in all areas of cancer treatment including lung cancer, head and neck cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, and GI Malignancies. Steel was instrumental in establishing prostate seed implant programs in numerous hospitals and surgery centers in Tampa, Brandon, Sun City Center, Plant City, and Bradenton, FL.Steel is the author and principal investigator of a research project entitled “Combined Modality Therapy Treatment (Triple Therapy) for Unfavorable Early Stage Prostate Cancer.” The study is funded via two unconditional grants sponsored by TAP Pharmaceuticals, and Schering Laboratory Corporation.He graduated summa cum laude from Northern Michigan University and received his medical degree in 1985 from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan. Steel completed his residency program at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, where he was Chief Resident, and subsequently became an assistant professor at the University of Southern California. Steel then served three years with the United States Air Force as Chief of Radiation Oncology at Keesler Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi before entering private practice in Florida in 1993.Steel is a member of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology; the American College of Radiation Oncology; the American College of Radiology; the Florida Radiological Society; the Radiosurgery Society (RSS); the Florida Medical Association; and the Hillsborough County Medical Association.