If you have cancer, you may have a lot of questions about which doctor’s visits to keep and how to get to them during the coronavirus pandemic. Having cancer can weaken your immune system, making you at higher risk for infections like COVID-19.
You may be able to handle your regular appointments with telemedicine. But there are times when you might have to go into the office for treatment.
Protecting yourself can be challenging. Here are some tips to stay safe.
Call the Doctor’s Office
Check in with your cancer care team to find out if they need you to come in. Depending on what you need, you might be able to have a video visit and don’t need to go to the office.
Some questions to ask:
- Do you think I should delay my upcoming checkup, test, treatment, or cancer screening?
- What will happen if I cancel or postpone? Is there a risk to my health?
- When should I reschedule it?
- Is it possible to schedule a telehealth appointment?
- How does telehealth work?
If you need to have lab work, or if you're going for a treatment like chemotherapy or radiation, ask what to expect. Your team will probably ask you to come into the office by yourself. You might have to call or text when you arrive and then wait in your car or outside the door until someone calls you to come in. When you go in the waiting room, chairs will be farther apart.
A nurse will take your temperature when you enter the office. Everyone will be wearing masks. They may ask you to wear a face mask, too.
In some cases, your cancer care team may ask you to go to a different facility that isn't treating people with the coronavirus. That can minimize your chances of infection.
Driving to the Doctor
If you can drive to your cancer care appointment, go alone if it's safe for you to. If you get a ride from someone who doesn’t live with you, you should both wear a face mask. If weather permits, keep the windows open in your vehicle to help with ventilation.
Make sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before and after your visit. Keep your hands away from your face in the car and in the office.
Taking Mass Transit
If you take a bus or train to get to your appointment, use these tips to stay safe and ease stress:
Schedule your visit for non-peak times. Although lots of people are working from home, those that don’t are often still commuting during the morning and afternoon rush hours. Since you have cancer, you have a higher chance of catching the coronavirus and getting a more severe infection from it. So try to ride when fewer people will be on board.
Avoid close contact. Sit or stand as far away from other people as you can. Try to be at least 6 feet away from other riders.
Wipe down surfaces. If you have bacterial wipes, clean handles, rails, seats, or any other surfaces you might touch. Know that you won’t get all germs. As you're wiping things down, be sure to keep your hands away from your face.
Wear a face mask. Cover your face and nose with a cloth face mask whenever you’re around other people. It'll keep you from spreading the virus if you have it and don't know it.
Wash your hands. Scrub them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as soon as you can after your ride. It’s OK to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer as soon as you get off the bus or train. But wash your hands once you get to the office.
Taking a Rideshare or Taxi
It’s hard to keep distance between you and the driver in a rideshare. But most taxis have partitions between the driver and the passenger. Always sit in the backseat. Wear a mask and suggest that the driver wear one if they aren’t already.
See if you can order and pay for your ride in an app or online. That way, you don’t have to touch anything.
Major ride-sharing services have canceled the feature that lets you split a ride with someone you don’t know. That means you’ll only be in the car with the driver. But you don’t know if the driver is sick or if any riders before you were sick. The virus can live on surfaces for hours or maybe even days, so touch as little as you can, and use disinfectant wipes if you have them.
It’s a good idea to open the window if it’s not already open, and suggest to the driver to turn on fresh air instead of recirculated air.
If you have hand sanitizer, use it on your hands as soon as you get out of the car. Then wash them for at least 20 seconds when you get to the doctor’s office.