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What Does the Continued Rise in COVID-19 Cases Mean for Cancer Patients?

January 19, 2021 | AONN+ Blog | COVID-19
Featuring:
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Editor-in-Chief, JONS; Co-Founder, AONN+; University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer, Administrative Director, The Johns Hopkins Breast Center; Director, Johns Hopkins Cancer Survivorship Programs; Professor of Surgery and Oncology, JHU School of Medicine; Co-Creator, Work Stride-Managing Cancer at Work

As of January 15, 2021, the United States was still seeing a continued upswing in the number of people being diagnosed, hospitalized, and dying of COVID-19. By the end of January, or sooner, we will surely see the death toll grow to 400,000 individuals.

For patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer, decisions around when to start treatment and what kind of treatment is appropriate will be made based on what is safest for the patient during this pandemic. Patients with very early-stage solid organ tumors that are average or slow growing may be instructed to wait before having their surgeries. Patients needing chemotherapy will likely be switched to an oral oncolytic to avoid having the patient come into the infusion center for their treatments. Patients with advanced disease will be offered hospice care sooner to avoid possible exposure to the virus, if the patient needs to be hospitalized or receive treatment in the infusion center.

As an oncology nurse or patient navigator, you need to provide a sense of calm and reassurance to your patients. Waiting a few weeks to begin treatment is okay; receiving treatment in an oral form can be just as powerful as an IV method; and hospice care usually results in patients living longer and having a better quality of life.

There is so much anxiety, distress, and fear in the world right now, and you may be the only person who can understand the patient’s concern. Reassuring your patient is a huge responsibility to have, and a very important one.

With the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, cancer teams are now tasked with making decisions on when it will be appropriate for a patient to receive the vaccine. Equipping patients with fact-based information about the vaccine is helpful in alleviating any fears, and receiving the vaccine will provide the patient with safety against the virus, especially as strains of the virus have begun to mutate.

Remember this quote and share it with others: “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles; it empties today of its strength.”

Find invaluable resources to help you in the management of patient care during the coronavirus pandemic in the AONN+ COVID-19 Navigator Toolkit.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, visit my Insights into Navigation column, exclusively for AONN+ members.

Not a member? Learn more about the benefits of AONN+ membership and join today!

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