COVID-19 symptoms, screening and testing: Insight for cancer patients and caregivers

Some cancer patients take medications that suppress their immune systems as a part of their treatment. That makes them more susceptible to infections, such as the flu or 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Washing your hands properly and often, avoiding touching your face and other simple strategies can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other contagious diseases. But what COVID-19 symptoms should cancer patients and their caregivers be on the lookout for? When do cancer patients need to be screened for COVID-19, and what does that screening process look like? And, in what cases do cancer patients need to be tested for the 2019 novel coronavirus? We spoke with infectious diseases and infection control specialist Roy Chemaly, M.D., to learn more. What are the symptoms of COVID-19, and how do they differ from those of a cold or the flu? Fever, cough and shortness of breath are the most commonly reported symptoms. Sore throat has also been associated with this coronavirus. These symptoms are very similar to those associated with the flu or the common cold. So, how would I know if I have COVID-19 or something else? It really all depends on your exposure. You are only at risk of catching COVID-19 if you’ve traveled recently to an area where documented cases have been reported, or if you’ve been around someone who may have the virus. How quickly could I develop symptoms after exposure to the virus? It may take up to 14 days before COVID-19 symptoms appear. As a cancer patient, when do I need to be tested for COVID-19? Right now, it all hinges on whether...

Protecting cancer patients from the coronavirus (COVID-19): 4 things caregivers should know

As a cancer caregiver, you may be wondering how you can protect your loved one from infection — particularly with the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continuing to make headlines. COVID-19 germs are spread like those of the common cold: through direct contact with someone who has the virus, by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching one’s eyes, nose, or mouth, or by inhaling the tiny moisture droplets that are exhaled, sneezed or coughed into the air by someone who has the virus. So, what can you do to help protect you and your loved ones from COVID-19 and other contagious diseases? To learn more, we spoke with Roy Chemaly, M.D., our infectious diseases and infection control specialist. Wash your hands properly — and often “The single most important thing people can do to prevent the spread of germs is to wash their hands properly — and frequently,” Chemaly says. Lather up with soap and water and scrub all parts of your hands — back, front, between your fingers, around your cuticles and under your nails — for at least 20 seconds before rinsing off the suds. If you need help gauging exactly how long that is, either sing the ABC song once or “Happy Birthday to You” twice. Germs are easily spread when we shake hands, so it’s important to wash your hands after doing so. Or, better yet, consider substituting an “elbow bump” for a handshake, hug or kiss. Can’t wash? Don’t touch If you don’t have access to soap and water, try to find an alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead. Apply the gel liberally, and rub it all over...