As New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey together with RWJBarnabas Health is the state’s leading authority on cancer. As such, we want to help our patients navigate and better understand how the coronavirus may impact them.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are cancer patients at a higher risk of developing the coronavirus?
Patients who are in active cancer treatment may be at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus because their immune systems are often weakened by cancer and its treatments. Those who have underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Cancer patients who finished treatment a few years ago or longer have immune systems that have most likely recovered, but each person is different. The majority of individuals who do get the coronavirus will have a mild case.
What can I do to reduce my risk of developing the coronavirus?
You should be following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization to reduce your risk. These include:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Practice social distancing – staying six feet away from others and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
What is Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey doing to protect its patients?
At Rutgers Cancer Institute, we are taking extra precautions to provide the safest environment possible for our patients, visitors and staff. We have instituted temporary changes to our visitor guidelines which should be reviewed prior to coming for an appointment. View the guidelines here. All visitors 18 years of age and under will not be permitted. We are screening all patients for interaction with anyone infected with the coronavirus, cold and flu like symptoms, and scanning their temperature upon arrival.
Should I cancel my treatment or follow-up appointment?
Patients with scheduled treatment appointments should keep them, unless they’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms. You will receive a phone call from one of our staff 24 hours before your appointment to conduct pre-screening and answer any questions you may have.
Patients who are scheduled for a follow-up or surveillance appointment will be offered the opportunity to reschedule their appointment as a telemedicine encounter or reschedule an in-person appointment for 8 to 12 weeks out.
Are you still scheduling appointments for new diagnosed patients?
Absolutely. We are able to see patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer. We will pre-screen the patient, as we are doing for all, for COVID-19 symptoms but, we will certainly see new patients. Appointments can be made by calling 844-CANCERNJ (844-226-2376).
What else do cancer patients need to know about the coronavirus?
Information surrounding COVID-19 is still new, so doctors do not have a lot of specific information on this coronavirus for cancer patients. But they do have a lot of information regarding the risk of infections in general for cancer patients. Doctors and health officials agree the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus, which is especially important for cancer patients because they are at higher risk for serious illness, if they get infected, particularly patients who are in active chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant patients. That’s because their immune systems are suppressed or eliminated by the treatment. Call your doctor if you have symptoms of COVID-19, which include: fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
How do I deal with the stress I’m feeling from this situation?
We know these are stressful times and we want to help you cope with the stress related to COVID-19 concerns. Below are a few tips:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news/social media
- Take deep breaths, stretch, meditate
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly
- Get plenty of sleep
- Do things you enjoy like baking or walking the dog
- Talk with people you trust about how you are coping
Where can I find more information on the coronavirus?
- The New Jersey Department of Health: website or hotline 1-800-222-1222
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- American Cancer Society
- RWJBarnabas Health Resource Page
- Rutgers University Resource Page
- NCI - Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know