Patients with blood malignancies, who are in active chemotherapy or intensive radiotherapy, have antibody treatments or other targeted treatments such as protein kinase inhibitors, or who have undergone bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months, are particularly vulnerable as these treatments weaken the immune system.
UICC is keenly aware of the monumental challenges this situation creates for cancer patients and caregivers. In countries where COVID-19 is spreading rapidly and severely, more and more hospitals are forced to stop certain cancer treatments.
In addition, the rapid and global spread of the virus is forcing governments to take unprecedented measures to restrict travel and contact between individuals, as well as reduce access to hospitals to avoid straining health systems.
Therefore, cancer patients who contract the coronavirus, experiencing potentially more severe symptoms, may not receive the treatment for COVID-19 that they need.
In light of this very serious situation, UICC urges everyone to consider all vulnerable populations as cancer patients with compromised immune systems and to conform with health safety, social distancing and containment guidelines. They should do so, not only for their own safety but also to preserve health systems and allow everyone, including the most vulnerable, the best chance of overcoming the challenges imposed by this pandemic.
UICC members and other actors of the cancer community are rallying to provide support and essential supplies to patients, in order to limit their exposure to the coronavirus and help alleviate the psychological impact of the pandemic.
In particular, cancer patients can turn to UICC members around the world for information and support in coping with the additional stress and uncertainty caused by COVID-19.
Drawing on advice for patients and caregivers published by several cancer organisations, UICC offers below a summary of guidelines on how to minimise risks. Generic recommendations, such as regular handwashing for at least 20 seconds and social distancing, are particularly important for cancer patients.
Beyond that, cancer patients should:
For more specific questions regarding coronavirus as well as practitioner guidelines, please consult ASCO’s Coronavirus FAQs provided by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
UICC will add a plenary and sessions covering the impact of COVID-19 on the entire health system with a particular focus on cancer at its 2020 World Cancer Congress, which is still scheduled to take place in October.
Until then, UICC aims to provide members and the wider cancer community with up-to-date COVID-19 information, best practices and guidance documents.