Things Need To Know About Cancer Treatment During COVID-19 states that Novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the very manifestation of our ugliest nightmares, has caught the globe in a tight chokehold. We do not know if we will be saved from the terror that this virus has managed to unleash any time soon, but until then, several precautionary measures can minimize the risk for developing the illness associated with COVID-19.
How COVID-19 has brought cancer treatments to a standstill
For cancer patients, it is even harder than it is for the general population. Many countries have suspended cancer treatments on account of the COVID-19 outbreak. This development has made patients anxious. Research that focused on 1500 cancer patients in Wuhan, the epicenter of COVID-19 pandemic, suggested that many came down with coronavirus while getting treated for cancer. The researchers concluded that patients undergoing Cancer Treatment had increased susceptibility to the infection.
Scientists have established that cancer and its therapies can weaken a patient’s immunity, thus making them vulnerable to contagious infections, including COVID-19.
12 out of those 1500 patients were later diagnosed with COVID-19, thus proving that cancer patients had a doubled1 or even tripled risk of contracting the infection when compared to Wuhan’s general population. Cancer treatments such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, and Immunotherapy suppress the body’s immunity. The body’s immunity system is maintained by white blood cells or WBCs. If the WBCs aren’t functioning well, or if the WBC count is low, then the body’s capability of fighting diseases and infections is seriously affected. Owing to the immunocompromised state of the cancer patient, they are at higher risk of getting affected by COVID-19. The result1 of the research hence prompted the team working at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, led by Dr. Conghua Xie 1, to assert that the best course of action is to stay at home instead of putting lives at risk by traveling to and from the Cancer Treatment center.
Should I delay My Cancer Treatment due to Covid-19?
Indeed, leaving the confines of your home is considered unsafe in these times, but things are different for cancer patients. In the light of COVID-19, many hospitals have postponed or even canceled cancer treatments to prevent the exposure of cancer patients to potential infection. But how can you or your cancer care team determine whether your treatment can be put on hold?
No two cancer patients or cancers are alike. Maurie Markman, MD, President of Medicine and Science for CTCA (Cancer Treatment Centers of America) suggests that if a clinician believes that postponing Cancer Treatment can adversely impact the patient’s survival, then getting the patient treated becomes a necessity. Your oncologist or health care expert might consider the following factors to determine if you can delay treatment, such as:
- Your age
- Your overall health condition
- Your cancer type and cancer stage
- If you have any side effects or symptoms
- The scheduled mode of treatment
- Your treatment regimen
Jeffrey Metts realizes the urgency of cancer patients who have an upcoming appointment, especially if it requires traveling long distances. Metts recommends patients to get in touch with the cancer care team at the earliest. For some patients, cancer may advance if they don’t get treatment on time, so COVID-19 notwithstanding, their cancer center should do the needful. But those patients, whose treatment can wait, given they are doing good, can stay at home. In any case, you should contact your clinician for reliable medical advice.
Metts continues that in these tough circumstances, cancer patients must resort to safe and healthy hygienic practices, now more than ever.
What can I do to boost my immunity?
During this quarantine, until your next appointment, follow these five wellness practices to promote health and wellness by boosting immunity.
- Nourish Yourself: Make sure that you consume foods high in zinc, such as dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, legumes, and shellfish in case you have a deficiency. Zinc supplements can help decrease the risk of contracting respiratory infections. Additionally, include 2-3 servings of fruits and 5-7 servings of vegetables, with high flavonoids, such as apples, oranges, berries, tomatoes, onions, celery, parsley, and Nuts in your daily diet. Stay away from food items or snacks that can deteriorate immunity or cause inflammation, such as sugar, sweets, and processed foods with chemical additives. In case you are allergic or sensitive to specific foods, such as dairy or gluten, avoid them to lessen or prevent inflammation. 5 Experts recommend the intake of a few supplements, such as garlic, licorice root, turmeric, astragalus, and Vitamin C that can possibly reduce the risk factor or severity of COVID-19. Avoid immunostimulatory agents like elderberry, Echinacea Angustifolia, E. Purpurea, and larch arabinogalactan that may cause an increase in inflammatory cytokines.
- Stay Fit: Moderate exercising such as Pilates, yoga, and Energy therapies can enhance immunity and reduce the risk factor of developing respiratory infections. To stay fit and active, engage in stretching and strength training exercises, as it can help build muscle mass and control your weight.
- Keep Calm: Manage Stress by speaking your mind and sharing your worries with your family and friends. Stress can disrupt the immune system by triggering the growth of pro-inflammatory cytokines in numbers and severity. Mind-body practices can reduce Anxiety and positively influence the effectiveness of treatment. Sleep well to reset your immune system.
- Cancer-Proof Your Home: Make your home your healing space by creating a restorative environment. Avoid using carcinogenic products and opt for organic products and a clean lifestyle.
- Get Community Support: Support and love can help fight cancer and also lower the severity of the risk factors associated with respiratory diseases. Talk to cancer survivors, family, or friends to find relief from your anxieties, to pass through these uncertain times with ease and peace of mind.
Each system of medication, be it naturopathic, functional, or Ayurveda, has its own complementary approach to enhance immunity and promote wellness. Instead of going with a shotgun approach, where you heed to every piece of advice from different practitioners and end up giving your body mixed messages, limit yourself to a particular system and follow the wellness protocol associated with it.
A cancer diagnosis can threaten the peace of your personal life, but COVID-19 has threatened the peace of the entire world. Instead of focusing on what goes on in our homes, let us start looking out and above our personal spaces and worries.
Let us hope that this tide shall also pass, pretty soon.
The following are some of the credible websites and resources that mention integrative health practices which you may refer to.
- Visit Boosting Immunity: Functional Medicine Tips on Prevention and Optimizing Immune Function During the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak and COVID-19: Functional Medicine Resources for the suggestions and advice of the Institute for Functional Medicine.
- Integrative Approaches to COVID-19 by The Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine and Integrative Considerations during the COVID-19 Pandemic by naturopathic oncologist Lise Alschuler, ND
- How to Shield Yourself against COVID-19: Science-Based, Integrative Medicine Strategies for a Once-in-a-Century Pandemic by Cynthia Li, MD
- Resilience and Covid-19 Integrative Medicine Recommendations by Anna O’Malley, MD
- Natural Remedies and Supplements for Coronavirus (COVID-19) by ConsumerLab.com is a report that explores and explains how natural products and certain supplements can affect viruses.