Long-term Effects of COVID-19 on the Cancer Community

The COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis that the global community continues to navigate together. But an emerging public health issue is the impact the pandemic is having on chronic health conditions like cancer.

Managing cancer and treatment is difficult but doing this during a pandemic is stress on a whole new level. Individuals undergoing cancer treatment have compromised immune systems and are at a greater risk for infections. If they are unfortunate enough to get COVID-19, the infection can be more serious. So, it’s natural that people with cancer are worried about going to a hospital or clinic. How do we make sure the cancer community feels informed and supported at this time?

For the past 11 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC Foundation have provided tools and resources to educate the cancer community on how to lower the risk of infection during chemotherapy through the Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients (PICP) program. This long-standing program, which has been supported by Amgen, provided an opportunity for us to swiftly share educational materials related to staying safe during the pandemic, such as CDC’s COVID-19 guide for cancer patients. We have also been able to pivot quickly to develop new materials in response to emerging concerns like medical distancing. Medical distancing is the term that’s being used to describe people who need care but are choosing not to visit medical facilities due to fear of COVID-19. In the setting of cancer, the decision to delay necessary treatments or screening appointments can have serious implications. So, we created a public service announcement and infographic in both English and Spanish languages to make sure that cancer patients and their families know they aren’t alone in this, and that decisions about treatment should only be made in conversation with their healthcare teams.

I believe that we all have a responsibility to help minimize the long-term impact that COVID-19 will have on those living with serious health conditions. I encourage you to do your part in tackling this issue. Together we can!

Dr. Judy Monroe
Judy Monroe, MD, is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.