Woman in hospital

Leading oncologist says coronavirus prevention key for cancer patients

Patients with a cancer diagnosis should closely follow official advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) to reduce their chances of infection in the coming weeks and months according to a leading medical oncologist.

The oncology community across the country has come together to prepare for an expected increase in coronavirus cases in Ireland said Cork University Hospital medical oncologist, Prof Roisin Connolly.

However, experts still do not know for certain how coronavirus will affect patients who may have a weaker immune system due to cancer or cancer treatment.

“From an oncology perspective this is very, very new for everyone. It is becoming clear from recent international experience that we need to consider that certain patients with cancer may be more at risk from this virus than the general population,” Prof Connolly, who is also the Professor Gerald O’Sullivan Chair in Cancer Research at UCC.

“It is extremely important for everyone to keep their social interactions to a minimum as others may be harbouring the virus without even knowing it. People should keep washing hands regularly during the day including before and after eating; keep their hands away from the eyes, nose and mouth; and cough into their sleeve.

“One of the other messages we’re getting across is that people should be calling their GP or oncology or radiology department if they’re feeling unwell.”

“What we don’t want is people arriving unwell as this may increase spread of the virus if that person has it. Hospitals can minimise spread of the virus to other patients and healthcare staff when they are given advanced notice.”

Cancer treatments for some patients may need to be postponed as hospitals come under strain in the weeks ahead, but Prof Connolly says patient safety is always the number one factor when weighing up what will be done.

“Every patient is different and the pros and cons of treatment may need to be considered in each case. We want to consider what is safest for each individual patient depending on what is happening at the hospitals in the coming weeks. “

Prof Connolly stressed the critical importance of keeping up to date with official information from healthcare authorities rather than from potentially less trustworthy sources on social media.

“We’re constantly referring people to the www.HSE.ie website which is updated every day. It is really important to follow this advice if not feeling well, or to get that advice from your oncology team or GP.”

Contact the Cancer Nurseline

If you or someone in your life is undergoing cancer treatment and are concerned about the coronavirus, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Cancer Nurseline 1800 200 700 or through our online form.

Nurseline 1
Coronavirus and cancer

Information and advice concerning the coronavirus for cancer patients, cancer survivors and their families