FAQs for cancer patients about novel coronavirus COVID-19
While risk to Canadians is relatively low, novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to be of concern in Saskatchewan. It is important for cancer patients and their families to know how to stay protected.
As a cancer patient, am I eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?
Expert opinion is that vaccines are likely to be safe even in patients who may be immunocompromised from their cancer or treatment.
Patients with cancer may have a diminished immune response to the vaccine due to their cancer or their cancer therapy. At this time, we do not have the evidence to know if or how much this affects the efficacy of the vaccine. However, experience with other vaccines suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are likely to be helpful in reducing the risk of COVID-19 in patients with cancer. As more information becomes available we will be updating our advice.
More information about vaccines is available from the Government of Saskatchewan.
As a cancer patient, am I more likely to get sick from COVID-19?
There is a wide range of symptoms for people with COVID-19 ranging from no symptoms to severe pneumonia. It is possible that cancer patients are at a higher risk of more severe symptoms because of their lowered immune system due to medications and treatment. Like other healthy people, they should do their best to avoid infection. This includes:
• Avoiding crowded public places
• Washing hands frequently with soap and water (20 to 30 sec)
• Avoid touching their face
• Covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
• Avoiding others who are unwell
• Staying home when sick
• Practicing social distancing (e.g. no handshakes, hugs, kisses)
How can I avoid getting sick with COVID-19
The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is the same as what do to avoid influenza, colds and other illnesses. The most important thing you can is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.
Washing your hands properly means using soap and water and washing for at least 20 seconds. You can also use hand sanitizer with alcohol in it. However, if your hands have dirt or food or anything else on them, you should use soap and water. Hand sanitizer may not clean the debris away as thoroughly as washing with soap and water.
If you have to cough or sneeze, do so into your elbow or a tissue. Immediately wash your hands afterwards. Stay away from other people who are ill. If you are sick yourself, stay away from others.
Will wearing a mask protect me from being infected?
Our advice for cancer patients is the same as for any other person. If you are healthy, wearing a mask is only recommended where physical distancing of 2 metres is not possible or physical distancing is unpredictable. Masks should only be used to prevent transmission to others. As a precautionary measure to prevent transmission to others in our cancer centres, all patients and support people will be required to wear a mask for the duration of their visit. Surgical masks will be provided at the screening stations at cancer centre entrances.
Should I still go to my cancer centre appointment?
Please attend your appointment in person as scheduled. Some follow-up appointments may be rescheduled, however those patients will be contacted in advance by the cancer centre.
You may call the cancer centre for further direction if:
• You have traveled recently or are under the public health requirement to self-isolate.
• You’re not feeling well with cold or flu-like symptoms (cough or difficulty breathing)
• Have a fever over 38 degrees Celsius
Allan Blair Cancer Centre: 306-766-2213
Saskatoon Cancer Centre: 306-655-2662
(phone lines monitored Monday to Friday 8:00 am - 4:30 pm)
We have suspended services provided by our volunteers in order to further protect patients and volunteers. Therefore, please bring adequate snacks and beverages to your appointment, as the nutrition carts will be unavailable.
Does the Cancer Agency offer virtual appointments?
It is possible that some patients may be seen virtually. This is a discussion you should have when booking an appointment. The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency and the Saskatchewan Health Authority currently use a program called Pexip to sustain continued care to people as an alternative to some in-person appointments (where possible).
Pexip is a secure web-based program that allows you to be seen by your care provider for an appointment in a virtual meeting room (VMR), and allows us to continue to support your cancer journey when it is best for you to remain where you are or when you are unable to attend in person.
Can I bring a support person with me to my appointment?
Immuno-compromised patients are at higher risk for illnesses, especially COVID-19.
We recognize the importance and value of having a support person present with you when you are seeing your care team. We ask that you identify one key support person to bring to your clinic appointment as we continue to work to limit the risk of exposure for other patients and staff. Additional support persons are welcome to join the appointment virtually by phone.
To further protect all vulnerable patients and limit the risk of exposure for patients and staff, patients receiving treatment within the cancer centre will be required to attend by themselves. As such, support persons will not be permitted to attend regular treatments.
Beginning treatment, however, can be very emotional and some patients may feel overwhelmed by the experience of the amount of information shared. Patients who are receiving their first cancer treatment may bring one adult support person to accompany them.
Patients who require a support person to accompany them to subsequent treatments due to medical or legal requirements will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. There are also exceptions for patients in unique circumstances, including patients with cognitive/developmental or physical impairment, patients with substitute decision makers, and patients who require translators including deaf or hearing impaired. Patients who require a support person to accompany them to treatments due to medical or legal requirements will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Please Please contact your care team to discuss any exceptions.
Support persons should not come to the cancer centres:
• If they have any respiratory or gastric symptoms such as common cold symptoms or diarrhea/vomiting.
• If they have travelled outside of the province within the last 14 days or have flu-like symptoms.
How much medication should I keep on hand?
At this time, it is not necessary to request additional refill quantities from the pharmacy. If you do require a refill, please contact the cancer centre pharmacy or your physician and we will make arrangements to get the medication(s) to you.
Allan Blair Cancer Centre Pharmacy: 306-766-2816
Saskatoon Cancer Centre Pharmacy: 306-655-2680
Where can I get more information?
Public health officials continue to reassess the national and provincial public health risk, based on the best available evidence as the situation evolves. New information, tools and resources about COVID-19 are available on the Government of Saskatchewan website, which is Saskatchewan’s source of information for healthcare providers and the public.
Adapted with permission from BC Cancer