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Cancer & COVID-19

Cancer patients may have weaker immune systems than the general public. This can make it difficult for your body to fight off an infection, which could make you very sick. Below you will find information about the COVID-19 virus and how it can affect people with cancer. Visit this page for information about visiting the cancer center.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I have cancer, am I more likely to get COVID-19?

No, it does not appear people with cancer are more likely to be infected.

If I get COVID-19, will I be sicker than those who do not have cancer?

People with cancer are more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19 than the general public. If infected, patients who are on active chemotherapy or scheduled for a bone marrow transplant are especially at risk for serious illness. Their immune systems can be severely weakened by treatment.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath – similar to what you may feel with influenza or a bad cold. Other symptoms can include:

  • Body aches and pains
  • Feeling very tired
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Diarrhea or nausea

What should I do if I start showing symptoms of COVID-19?

If you feel like you or a loved one are developing symptoms, call your doctor. Remember that some people infected with the virus might not have symptoms, but can still spread the virus to others. Children, in particular, are likely to have fewer symptoms.

Health experts are telling me to stay home, should I still get preventative screenings for cancer during this pandemic?

Screening is different than cancer surveillance. Screening refers to tests that are ordered in asymptomatic patients to find a pre-cancer or early cancer. According to Dr. Richard Wender, Chief Cancer Control Officer for the American Cancer Society, “the American Cancer Society recommends that no one should go to a healthcare facility for routine cancer screening at this time.” If you’re due for a screening, stay in touch with your care team to postpone your appointment for the future. “Remember, these screening tests save lives. When restrictions lift, it’s important to reschedule any screening test that you’re due to receive,” says Wender. “Getting back on track with cancer screening should be a high priority,” he adds. Screenings are different from tests your doctor may order if you have symptoms that could be from cancer.

Cancer surveillance exams are for patients with a known diagnosis of cancer to ensure that the cancer has not recurred. Some of these can be safely postponed, whereas in other instances it is important to maintain the surveillance schedule. Contact your cancer care team to discuss your best course of action.

Can I get COVID-19 from a blood transfusion?

According to the American Red Cross, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through blood transfusion.

Will COVID-19 affect the clinical trial I am participating in?

Stephenson Cancer Center is working closely with national organizations to address any challenges posed by COVID-19. If you are currently participating in a clinical trial and have questions, please contact your cancer care clinic. They can provide specific information about your trial and discuss any changes to your appointment schedule.

I have an appointment/treatment scheduled at the cancer center, do I need to reschedule?

To practice social distancing and limit exposure, clinics are assessing all visits to determine if appointments may be safely delayed and rescheduled. If your appointment is delayed, a member of your care team will contact you to discuss your treatment plan, answer questions and reschedule the visit. Where possible, virtual care visits (telehealth) will be used to connect you with your care team from the safety of your own home.

What changes will I experience during my next visit to Stephenson Cancer Center?

While screening policies and procedures are subject to change as new information evolves, you will be screened upon entry to the building/hospital for your visit. Patients will only be allowed a visitor at their appointment if it is medically necessary. View OU Medicine's most updated Visitor Policy here.

For added safety, all individuals must wear a mask inside the cancer center. For your comfort, we recommend that you bring a personal mask from home to wear during your visit. If you do not have a mask, we will provide one for you to wear during your appointment or treatment. View how to Prepare for Your Next Visit.

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If you have any questions about COVID-19 and your cancer treatment, please contact Stephenson Cancer Center at (405) 271-1112.