Cancer COVID-19 (coronavirus)

I have cancer. How do I protect myself from COVID-19?

Cancer and its treatments affect your immune system, making people with cancer and those who have been treated for cancer more vulnerable to viruses and bacteria.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a concerning time for our community, and in particular for those who are immunocompromised. Researchers are still studying the novel coronavirus and how it affects people who are vulnerable.

Sunnybrook’s Infection Prevention and Control team has these reminders to help reduce your risk of catching this or other infectious illnesses:

  • Do during the COVID-19 pandemic what you routinely do to protect yourself: wash your hands, keep them away from your face, stay away from people who are unwell.
  • Practice social distancing: we’ve been hearing this a lot. It means limit your close contact with others, stay away from crowds, and keep 2 m physical space from others. Stay at home as much as possible. This helps reduce the spread in the community, thus protecting you further.
  • Carry hand sanitizer when you do go out, and clean your hands frequently.
  • If someone in your home is ill with a fever, cough, cold or other infectious illness, spread out if possible. Designate some space for each of you. Sleep separately if you don’t already and you have the space to do so. The person who is sick with cough, cold, fever, etc. should wear a mask when they are with you.
  • Wipe down high-touch surfaces daily.
  • People with cancer sometimes choose to wear a mask in public to protect themselves. If you choose to wear a mask, please wear it properly.
  • Physicians in Ontario are encouraged to move to virtual visits. Ask your doctor if that’s possible for your next appointment.

And lastly, have a conversation with loved ones and friends about what they can do to protect you and how important it is: wash their hands, keep their hands away from their face; stay home when unwell; practice social distancing. Well-meaning family members and friends might find it hard to say they can’t visit or help: remind them that you cannot have visitors who are unwell, and that it’s ok to switch to virtual visits, Consider phone or virtual visits even with well people, in order to practice social distancing. Keep the in-person visits or help to a few close people.

If you feel concerned about COVID-19 and your care, please reach out to your doctor’s office or hospital’s nursing line.

For patients of the Odette Cancer Centre, you can see frequently asked questions at sunnybrook.ca/coronavirus/cancer

About the author

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Alexis Dobranowski

Alexis Dobranowski is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.