COVID-19 Q&A FROM DR. ROBERT HAYASHI

In order to provide the most current information available, NCCS board member and childhood cancer survivorship expert, Dr. Robert Hayashi, MD, answers some common questions on navigating the pandemic with a child in treatment or as a childhood cancer survivor.

Dr. Robert Hayashi, MD is Professor in Pediatrics/Director, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Washington University School of Medicine.

What does being "immune compromised" actually mean?

Immunocompromised is a state where the body’s immune system, and thus the ability to fight infection is not as good as the average person. This can occur by many means; some people inherit conditions that compromise their immune system, some have diseases that compromises the immune system and some receive treatment that compromise the immune system. Cancer as a disease and the treatment that patients receive compromise the immune system.

Does a history of cancer raise one's risk for health complications from COVID-19?

In theory, some patients with a history with cancer may not have fully reestablished a normal immune system; also, if prior treatments have long term damage on the heart or lungs, the patient may have more problems with COVID-19 than others.

Do certain treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation raise your risk for getting COVID-19 more than others?

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy both compromise the immune system; depending upon the strength and timing, the recovery to a normal immune system may be short or long.

Does being a childhood cancer survivor make one more likely to experience complications from the virus should they contract it?

Just like any cancer patient, depending upon the therapy, the strength and how long it has been since they received the therapy will determine how compromised the immune system is.

Should cancer survivors follow the general public health recommendations issued by the CDC?

The recommendations by the CDC are based upon our most recent knowledge of the virus and how it affects vulnerable patients. Although it is a dynamic process, the guidelines are always a reliable resource.

What advice do you have for patients who are currently on oral cancer therapies?

The nature by which a patient receives a therapy (oral verses IV ) is less relevant than the nature and strength of the treatment. Your oncologist should be able to guide you on the most appropriate precautions.

If a cancer patient or cancer survivor feels some early symptoms such as fever or cough, should they contact their medical oncologist or primary care physician?

This is a question that is best addressed in advance. It depends on the relationship that you have with both at the current time. You should call both and see what their preference is.

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