Most people are able to stay home and avoid doctor’s offices or hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. For others, like those fighting cancer, they have to continue their treatment and doctor’s visits. Extra precautions are needed to protect them as they may have suppressed immune systems. Cynthia Plate, MD, a breast surgeon who supports and treats breast cancer patients with Adventist HealthCare provides advice that she is giving to her patients during this time.
What measures of precaution should those with cancer take?
Dr. Plate: I’m encouraging my patients to self-isolate and if they need to go out, to constantly wash their hands, use hand sanitizer and wear a face mask. If possible, I’m also recommending that they send a family member or friend to the store for them and get the supplies they need. It’s also very important that anyone going through cancer treatments or is in recovery, that they follow good health practices, not only for their physical health but also their mental health such as:
- Eating well-balanced meals
- Getting plenty of rest
- Staying hydrated
- Exercising – that has been approved by your doctor
- Staying connected with family and friends, even virtually
- Creating a self-care kit with activities or things that help you manage stress
- Limiting media exposure
I also want to emphasize the importance of staying in touch with your doctor or care team. They are there for you. Any question or concern you have, they can help and are there to guide and support you.
What do you recommend to patients who still have to attend doctors’ appointments?
Dr. Plate: For doctors’ appointments, I suggest that patients take the same precautions as they would going to a store. Check with the office to see if they are offering or if you are eligible for a Telehealth visit. Most physicians are using Telemedicine and if your appointment is a follow-up and you don’t need to receive treatment, this is the best option to help protect yourself.
How are you reassuring your patients surrounding the different emotions they are experiencing?
Dr. Plate: My newly diagnosed breast cancer patients are incredibly frightened. We are working hard to avoid exposing anyone to the hospital unnecessarily. Not all patients require surgery and when appropriate, we can use other treatments such as Endocrine therapy. We are also working hand in hand with our oncologists to continue our multidisciplinary approach to their care. In some cases, we have patients that we need to operate on now. This of course, makes my patients very anxious, but I let them know we are taking every precaution to ensure their safety. I do my best to allay these fears by reassuring them we are working as a team and will continue to take care of them.
What are some things patients can do to help them cope with how their situation?
Dr. Plate: Now, more than ever, is the time to reach out to family and friends for support. We are all going through the same thing in different ways. Most importantly, we need to find strength in our different faiths or in things that help us stay healthy, mentally and physically.