Important Information About COVID-19 for Cancer Patients

Andrew Evans DOAndrew M. Evens, DO, MSc, FACP, Associate Director for Clinical Services and Director, Lymphoma Program, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; Medical Director, Oncology Service Line, RWJBarnabas Health; and Professor of Medicine, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Is someone with cancer at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19?
It’s not currently known whether cancer patients have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or not. There is a fairly high rate of transmission of the virus irrespective of a cancer diagnosis. However, since some cancer patients are immunosuppressed, they may be at a higher risk of contracting the virus. The virus is so new that this has not been fully studied yet. There are emerging data suggesting that if an individual with cancer did contract COVID-19, there may be more severe complications due to the virus.

Why would COVID-19 be more severe in an individual with cancer?
The immune system of an individual with cancer is often weaker, especially during chemotherapy. Therefore, during this time they may be more susceptible to the complications once an infection occurs, including influenza. A cancer patient’s risk for developing a more severe case is individualized based on several factors. This includes patient history and type of cancer they have, whether they’re receiving chemotherapy, how immunosuppressed they are, and other pre-existing comorbidities as well.

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