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Coronavirus (COVID-19): What Breast Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Family Members Need to Know
Susan G. Komen® Northeast Ohio takes the health and safety of breast cancer patients and our supporters, volunteers, and staff very seriously. As such, we are closely monitoring the news of the novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) and the current state of cases found across the U.S., following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health authorities.
This is a fast developing situation, but we want you to be assured our top concern is to ensure we have the plans and resources in place to safeguard the health and well-being of our supporters, staff, and everyone who is a part of our Komen Northeast Ohio family. As an organization dedicated to saving lives, nothing is more important.
On Sunday, March 22, Ohio governor Mike DeWine issued a “stay at home” order until April 6, 2020. For a list of frequently asked questions and answers about the “stay at home” order and what it means for Ohioans, please click here.
With the COVID-19 situation evolving quickly, we believe we must act decisively. As such, out of an abundance of caution and to help stem the spread of this disease in our communities, the Komen Northeast Ohio is closed until further notice. Staff is still working and available to assist anyone with breast health or breast cancer needs, or to answer any questions related to events, fundraising, operations, or any other questions you have about the organization. Please click here to access the contact information for our staff while the office is closed. Cancer does not stop because of COVID-19, and neither does Komen Northeast Ohio.
At this time, based on the CDC’s guidance for people who are at higher risk, we also recommend that people living with breast cancer or who have a compromised immune system not attend any large gathering and stay home as much as possible, though we recognize that decision is up to each individual.
We recognize that the facts about COVID-19 are still emerging, and that the uncertainty can be unsettling. We are committed to providing updates to you, your families, and our volunteers as new information is available. Please utilize the CDC’s website for the most up to date information.
What is COVID-19?
The World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
“A pandemic is a global outbreak of a serious new illness that requires sustained transmission throughout the world,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This loosely-defined term does not necessarily refer to the lethality of an illness, but more so the worldwide spread.
So what are the symptoms of COVID-19, who is most at risk, and what should everyone do to protect themselves and others?
- Shortness of breath
These symptoms may appear up to 14 days after exposure. Call your doctor if you develop symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19.
If you develop these emergency symptoms, get medical attention immediately…
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
High Risk Precautions
The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal, published a study in mid-February which concluded both current and former cancer patients are at greater risk from COVID-19. The study looked at 2,007 cases of hospitalized COVID-19 patients from 575 hospitals in China. Out of that group, they found 18 patients with a history of cancer they could track — some currently in treatment, some years out. Nearly half of those patients had a higher risk of “severe events” (defined as admission to the ICU, the need for ventilation or death).
“We found that patients with cancer might have a higher risk of COVID-19 than individuals without cancer,” the study authors wrote. “Additionally, we showed that patients with cancer had poorer outcomes from COVID-19, providing a timely reminder to physicians that more intensive attention should be paid to patients with cancer, in case of rapid deterioration.”
Dr. Gary Lyman, an oncologist and health policy expert at The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, states that those who have finished cancer treatment should also be mindful of their increased risk.
“The risk extends beyond the period of active treatment,” said Dr. Lyman. The after-effects of treatment don’t end when people finish their last course of therapy or leave the hospital after surgery. The after-effects of cancer and the immunosuppressive effects of treatment can be long-term.”
If you are currently in breast cancer treatment or a breast cancer survivor, live with someone who is currently in breast cancer treatment or a survivor, or around people who are currently in breast cancer treatment or survivors, please follow these precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place (if soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol).
- Avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
- Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
- Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones)
Things Everyone Should Do
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw that tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
The Komen Northeast Ohio COVID-19 Action Fund
The damage from the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) extends to those battling breast cancer. We have already seen patients lose income and fear for their health and survival, with many unable to access the treatment and medical care they critically need. Our work has never been more important, but the impact of COVID-19 makes it critically urgent.
Susan G. Komen® Northeast Ohio has established a new, unrestricted COVID-19 Action Fund to help our organization support the unique needs of people facing breast cancer during this health and economic crisis. Rising unemployment, mandatory stay at home orders, and an overburdened healthcare system are causing a perfect storm for breast cancer patients who have questions or need care. Funds raised will ensure our Affiliate is able to help those in need of support during this crisis today. Click here to donate to the COVID-19 Action Fund and help us help breast cancer patients today.
Support for Patients in Active Treatment & Survivors
Our Patient Navigator is here to help! If you or someone you know is struggling with care or treatment plans due to recent events – Komen Northeast Ohio is here for you. Our patient navigator can also assist in securing free rides to and from medical appointments and facilitate connections to financial assistance for cost of living expenses. Reach out to our Patient Navigator, Melanie Downey, to receive assistance.
Virtual Support Group for Breast Cancer Patients
We recognize that patients may not have access to their normal in-person support groups right now. Our friends at Susan G. Komen Columbus invite you to join us in a virtual therapeutic space every Wednesday at 7 p.m until 5/27. Both early stage patients and patients with advanced breast cancer are welcome. A clinical facilitator and mental health facilitator will be present. We will evaluate a possible MBC only group in the future. No need to register, just click the link to join – https://zoom.us/j/852404905.
Our goal for this webinar series is to provide an outlet for breast cancer patients and survivors during this unprecedented time. In order to keep everyone safe during this crisis and continue our mission to support breast cancer patients, survivors, and their families, we feel this virtual education series will provide necessary resources and relief from the uncertainty we find ourselves in. We are diligently working on scheduling more webinars, including one on financial and social resources now available and a guided virtual group meditation. If there are other topics you would like to know about, please email Gina at email@example.com to offer suggestions.
We are working on scheduling more for the future. Please check back here periodically for updates.
Previously Recorded Webinars
Our friends at Susan G. Komen Columbus hosted the first webinar, a free online 30-minute yoga class with breast cancer survivor and owner of Yoga oM Michelle Faith. Clear your mind, find your center, and relax as you treat yourself to some self-care. Click here to to access the free yoga class.
The second webinar of the series, led by Kerri Mazzone, LCSW, focused on coping with fear, anxiety, and isolation for patients/survivors caused by the pandemic. Kerri also covered the precautions health systems are taking to keep patients safe. Click here to view the recorded webinar.
The third webinar was an live Q&A with Dr. Alberto Montero, breast cancer oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic. He answered questions related to breast cancer treatment protocols during the pandemic, prevention efforts for COVID19, and things breast cancer patients should do if they start exhibiting symptoms. Click here to access the webinar recording.
Our fourth webinar as a guided meditation with Adam Lobel of the Engaged Mindfulness Institute. Mr. Lobel explained the benefits of meditation and led participants through a relaxing and calming meditation. Click here to access the recorded webinar.
Community Support Services
Komen Northeast Ohio compiled a list of community-based resources available to help those who are in treatment for breast cancer, including housing assistance, utility assistance, unemployment, mental health resources, and much more. Please click here to access the list. We will be updating this list as more information becomes available, so please check back here periodically for more updates.
Komen’s Statement on Mammography Screenings
On Wednesday, March 18, Susan G. Komen suggested healthy women of average risk who are not symptomatic delay routine breast cancer screening this spring until a later date. Komen’s recommendation was made to minimize exposure to and potential spreading of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and to help support our healthcare system’s need to focus resources on managing the pandemic.
However, people who are displaying warning signs for breast cancer should still contact their healthcare provider to determine their need for diagnostic imaging. If you do not have a healthcare provide, please contact Melanie at (216) 210-1987 or firstname.lastname@example.org to be connected to local resources. Please note warning signs for breast cancer are not the same for all women. The most common signs are changes to the look or feel of the breast. See a doctor as soon as possible if you notice any changes in your breasts. Click here to learn more about the warning signs for breast cancer.
Guidelines are changing and evolving daily. To keep up to date on specific guidance from the California Department of Health click here.
For more information, please visit CDC.gov/COVID19.