Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information for Cancer Patients
Cancer patients are uniquely vulnerable to infectious diseases like COVID-19, which is caused by the coronavirus. In fact, patients who are in active treatment are at 10 times greater risk of having severe complications from COVID-19. Additionally, cancer survivors have a 3-to-4 times greater risk of having severe complications from COVID-19.
While we understand the CDC’s new masking guidelines are long-awaited words, masks continue to play an important role in preventing spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses. For patients of The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we recommend that you continue to wear a mask both indoors and outdoors. With your medical history, you are more vulnerable to contract COVID-19 and your response to the vaccine may not be as effective as those in the general population.
To protect our patients and staff from infection, we have implemented the following guidelines for all of our locations:
- Cancer patients and caregivers should avoid all domestic and international travel involving public transportation. Review the CDC-recommended travel precautions.
- Cancer patients and caregivers should not participate in any local, regional and/or national meetings, conferences and other large gatherings. Instead, we encourage you to participate in these events using virtual technology, if possible. Meetings and events organized by the cancer center are currently being rescheduled.
- To reduce the risk of infection, only employees of the cancer center, health system and medical center who are involved in patient care may enter our patient care facilities. Vendors and guests who are not accompanying patients may not enter until further notice.
- For ongoing quality, efficiency and convenience, we are transitioning many appointments to telehealth visits. This is especially important to ensure the seamless continuation of ongoing cancer treatment. Contact your cancer care team to discuss continuing your care by telehealth. Learn more about our telehealth services.
- We are testing all patients prior to cancer treatment, surgery, radiation therapy or who may be receiving other types of procedures. We do this to proactively ensure the safety of our patients and staff and help us provide the best individualized plans of care.
Patient, staff and visitor guidelines
To protect our patients and staff from infection, we have implemented the following guidelines:
Patient screening process at registration/arrival
Our staff will ask:
- If you have any symptoms, including fever, cough and difficulty breathing
- If you have traveled recently or have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19
Outpatient visits at our cancer center clinics throughout the health system
1 visitor per patient during exams only. No visitors are allowed in treatment (applies at all locations). To enable physical distancing and prevent virus spread, these appointments are for patients only.
There are limited exceptions. A patient who has mobility or cognitive issues, requires a designated driver, is younger than 18, or has a particularly critical visit scheduled (such as a new patient or a treatment change) may be accompanied by a caregiver, guardian or guest.
Anyone who has a fever or other cold or flu-like symptoms will not be allowed in our facilities. No COVID-19-positive visitors are allowed.
Thank you for your understanding and patience as we work to protect the health and safety of our patients, staff and visitors during this unprecedented time.
COVID-19 questions for cancer patients
Yes, it is safe to be at our health system and cancer center locations. Our care team is following all recommended protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our primary goals are to ensure the safety of everyone and continue serving you with the best care.
We have processes, supplies and areas of our facility that are designed to prevent the spread of the virus to other patients, visitors, staff and physicians. Our expert clinicians regularly care for patients with severe respiratory illnesses and other infectious diseases. They are well trained and follow specific procedures using equipment, tools and techniques in place to protect themselves and patients.
We want to assure you it is safe to be here. Missing an important scheduled visit could place you at greater risk. Although it is better for your health to proceed with your scheduled visit, we can help you reschedule if you are uncomfortable with keeping the appointment. We will consult with your physician or clinical professional to ensure your health is not compromised by rescheduling.
The University of Kansas Cancer Center is committed to keeping our patients, staff and community safe as we work to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Because cancer patients are uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19, we are temporarily adjusting how we conduct clinical research trials to ensure the health and safety of our patients. The Clinical Trials Office remains fully operational but will evaluate patient participation in specific trials on a case-by-case basis. This means taking into consideration the health and well-being of the individual patient, availability of alternate treatments and overall health system resources.
If you are currently enrolled or interested in enrolling in a clinical research trial at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, talk to your doctor about how you should proceed. Our top priority is keeping our patients, visitors and staff safe. Rest assured, we are constantly monitoring this ever-changing environment and adhering to all federal, state and university guidelines.
Call your physician’s office and talk to a member of your treating care team. They can provide you with guidance and a recommendation in keeping with the screening criteria issued by the CDC and our state health departments.
You need to wear a mask because we must continue to observe the pillars of infection prevention and control to protect each other. Until most of the population is vaccinated our behaviors cannot dramatically change. Vaccination is not 100% effective, but it does protect us from severe illness if we contract COVID-19, reduces risk of death from COVID-19, and minimizes risk of overwhelming our healthcare systems and resources.
Until more is known, fully vaccinated cancer patients should continue to wear masks, wash your hands frequently and stay 6 feet apart from other people in other settings. We don’t know when masks will no longer be needed, so continuing to observe the pillars of infection prevention and control is vitally important.
We don’t have enough scientific evidence to support stopping COVID-19 testing even if you have been fully vaccinated. It is in your best interest to have this test result so that we can accurately determine the best approach to your care.
Yes, you must be tested prior to each treatment or procedure. There is some flexibility in timing of the test. If you are unable to get to the main campus to receive the COVID-19 test on the Saturday before your treatment or procedure, you may have the test the Friday before.
Some patients may choose to postpone their mammogram for 4-6 weeks after vaccination because the COVID-19 vaccine, like other vaccinations, can cause temporary enlargement of lymph nodes. This potential side effect may cause your mammogram to appear abnormal even when you are healthy and there is no indication of cancer. We strongly encourage women to not significantly delay their screening mammogram. There has been a 50% reduction in breast cancer diagnoses since the start of the pandemic, and this directly correlates to women not having their screening mammograms during the pandemic. If you are due for your mammogram, get it now prior to being vaccinated or ask your healthcare provider about timing of your mammogram as it relates to COVID-19 vaccination.
If you find yourself or a loved one feeling ill, do the following:
- If you are a cancer center patient with symptoms, call your care team.
- Alert your doctor if you have been in contact with someone ill or have traveled.
Follow these guidelines to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like flu and COVID-19.
- Wash hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect regularly.
- Wear your mask.
- Practice physical distancing.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may occur 2-14 days after exposure. Some of the most common include:
- Shortness of breath
Secondary symptoms may include loss of taste or smell, fatigue, diarrhea, aches or muscle pain, headache, runny nose, sore throat or chills.