If you have mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), a cancer of the white blood cells, you'll want to take careful steps to avoid COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Your immune system -- your body's defense against germs -- is already weak from your cancer and the treatment you may be getting for it. Try these steps to avoid catching COVID-19:

Review your treatment with your doctor. If you're on a non-oral treatment such as IV chemo, your doctor may suggest a change. Many doctors are looking for ways to cut down office visits for people on chemo. If your doctor doesn't want to switch you to an oral medication, they may instead change your chemo IV schedule so you come into a clinic less often.

Do virtual visits. Many doctor's offices now offer telemedicine as a way for you to get in touch with your health care team without an in-person visit. Talk to your doctor about what issues or needs require an office visit, and which you can deal with electronically.

Ask about "growth factor support." Doctors recommend shots of "granulocyte colony stimulating factor" (G-CSF) as a good way to boost the immune system for those with MCL. This “growth factor” tells your body to make more white blood cells. White blood cells are an important part of your body's germ defense system. G-CSF is especially helpful if you get a type of chemotherapy called R-CHOP.

Some other ways to lower your risk for getting COVID-19 are the same that health officials recommend for everyone:

Stay home as much as possible. You can get COVID-19 through airborne droplets that come from other people's mouths or noses. The closer you are to others, the higher your chance of coming into contact with the virus that causes it. Find friends, family, or a delivery service to help you with out-of-the-house errands.

If you must go out, take extra measures. Stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Don't shake hands with others. Carry hand sanitizer that's at least 60% alcohol with you, and use it after you touch surfaces if you're not near soap and water.

Keep your hands off your face. Even if you're avoiding other people, studies show the virus can cling to some hard surfaces for up to 72 hours. Once you touch a doorknob or countertop that has the virus on it, it can enter your body when you scratch your nose or rub your eye.

Wash your hands well. Scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Don't forget to wash the backs of your hands, thumbs, and under your fingernails. Always wash your hands after you've been in public.

Stock up on meds. Make a list of the over-the-counter and prescription meds you regularly use. Try to have a stockpile of 1 month or more. 

Eat well, rest, and exercise. Your immune system gets a boost from good nutrition, regular physical activity that gets your heart pumping, and 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.

Call your doctor if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, such as:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste or smell

 

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