Cancer care still crucial during stay-at-home order
By: Misagh Karimi, M.D.
With COVID-19 cases rising in Orange County and across the region, ICU hospital capacity is being significantly tested – the number of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the county has doubled since the beginning of the month.
The arrival of vaccines is welcome news but this surge is understandably worrisome to everyone. Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home order may cause some people to put their medical care on hold because of concerns about the virus. We saw this pattern earlier in the year.
Cancer specialists across the U.S. noticed a sharp drop in the number of screenings as the pandemic took hold. Breast cancer screenings in the U.S. fell by 85 percent in April 2020 compared to 2019. Colon cancer screenings fell by 75 percent. Lung cancer screenings fell by 56 percent. Statistically speaking, we know that some of the people who chose not to get screened had highly treatable cancer that could have been detected at an early stage but was not. This will negatively impact their options for treatment and their chances of being cured.
Many other people undoubtedly postponed seeking treatment or a second opinion for a cancer they already knew about. Delaying either can give cancer an unwelcome opportunity to progress.
COVID-19 is of profound concern to cancer patients because they are at heightened risk of severe complications should they contract it. Cancer treatment, or the cancer itself, weakens the immune system and requires patients to be exceptionally vigilant about protecting themselves from infectious diseases like the flu or COVID-19.
It’s important to remember that travel for essential medical care is not restricted and that medical facilities, especially those with specialized expertise in treating people with compromised immune systems, have implemented rigorous safeguards to protect patients and staff.
At City of Hope Newport Beach, those safeguards include:
- A no-visitor policy to enhance safety and reduce the number of people in the office.
- Pre-entry temperature check.
- Medical-grade masks worn by all.
- Physically distanced waiting rooms and infusion bays.
- Frequent and meticulous sanitizing of all areas of the facility.
- Hand sanitizing stations located throughout the building.
- Expanded use of telemedicine, allowing patients to see a physician from the comfort of home.
Cancer is not waiting for this virus to go away. You still need to care for your health, which includes cancer screening and treatment. Talk with your physicians about the best way for you to continue cancer care during the pandemic.
Misagh Karimi, M.D., is Director of Clinical Operations at City of Hope Newport Beach and a medical oncologist specializing in gastrointestinal cancers. City of Hope is among the nation’s most prepared organizations to help patients through the COVID-19 crisis and a safe place to receive world-class cancer care. To request an appointment to speak with one of the highly specialized cancer experts at City of Hope Newport Beach, call (949)763-2204 or visit cityofhope.org/OC.