CANCER AND COVID-19: PART 1 OF 3

Dealing with “The Scare” x 2

An important and leading specialty during this COVID-19 pandemic is Infectious Disease (ID).  ID is not my specialty, I’m in the cancer field (oncology).  One commonality between ID and Oncology is that these diseases do not respect anyone.  Recently, the question was asked, “which is worse, COVID-19 or Cancer?” That is absolutely not the point at all. They are both horrible diseases with the potential for a very bad outcome.  We would not wish either on anyone.  As such, this blog will not try to address the many opinions of COVID-19, or the devastation that is being faced by many due to this virus (CDC and local State Health Departments are doing an awesome job with the messaging for best practices). Instead, the focus will be on those who must deal with COVID-19 AND Cancer while in one of the 3 major phases of the cancer journey {any of my blogs fall into one of the categories below}. COVID-19 and Cancer will be addressed under the canvas of:

  1. Cancer suspected
  2. Cancer diagnosed
  3. After cancer treatment

In the next 2 blogs in the upcoming weeks, we will address issues for patients who are in phase 2 and phase 3 of their journey (or upcoming journey).  First, lets talk about the unknown, when cancer is only “suspected” and waiting is the name of the process, or state that someone may find themselves. 

Cancer Suspected during COVID-19 pandemic

If over the past month evaluation to rule out cancer began, then this time of protection from the virus is an added strain. Some possible scenarios include:

  • A letter, or a call, was received requesting a second visit for additional mammographic views to further evaluate an area of suspicion (mammogram requires proximity to the technician)
  • An elevated PSA (prostate specific antigen), or abnormal DRE (digital rectal exam) lead to a biopsy and results are pending
  • An irregular menstrual cycle after menopause, lead to a biopsy
  • A lump on your neck area that would not go away, even after rounds of antibiotic and a biopsy was done
  • Bowel movements are dark red and during a colonoscopy (to evaluate, or purely for a screening) a biopsy was taken and now awaiting the results
  • A new large growth on the thigh that, painful and red, was biopsied

The scenarios are too many to list, but understandably, whatever the processes taken to rule out cancer, someone may find themselves in the waiting posture during COVID-19. The waiting posture of, “what if it is cancer?” With that worry on-hand, plus trying to function in the current COVID-19 environment, equals the creation of a colossal burden…for anyone. Acknowledged.  Most clinics are now operating on minimal staffing to reduce exposure to the virus. This reduction may have an impact on the time it takes for the results of a procedure to become available. This is especially challenging in some locations throughout the United States that have a higher number of COVID-19 diagnosis and deaths. With the focus now on protecting the nation from this virus, what about those patients in the waiting posture? What should they do?

Fortunately, many clinics and hospitals have on-line access for patients, by which an email can be sent to a physician, or independent providers (NPs/PAs). Though calling and leaving voice messages for clinics, should still work, direct email communication usually has a turnaround time of 48-72hrs, during normal operating time and is likely preferred. Additionally, with some medical staff on a rotating shift, email communications are more likely to have an even faster turn around time, especially if the platform is shared with nurses. Nurses, usually can respond to the non-urgent requests as well. A shared platform with nurses are also a great added benefit, as they tend to “gently remind” physicians of any pending request in queue, after a certain time has passed. With advance technology, many physicians are able to communicate with their patients securely via video-conferencing platforms as well.  Visit the clinic, or hospital website to learn how to connect with your doctor(s), or independent practitioners.

Knowing whether there is a cancer diagnosis hanging in the balance during the COVID-19 pandemic is important to everyone, but we know, especially important to the patient. The medical staff understand the weight in the balance and how anxiety producing the situation can become. Seeking reassurance from family and friends who are aware of the pending results, can also be helpful. Continue to hope and pray … the results are just around the corner.

You are never alone!

Life is beautiful and God is awesome. And know, you are pure awesomeness!

Until next time,

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Remember …

Ipsa Scientia Potestas est    ———  Knowledge itself is power!

Don’t forget to visit our website … HERE

Queen, Your Family Friendly Cancer Doc!

 

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