Blood cancer patients should not cease treatment for their disease because of the 12-week isolation period, experts have warned.
The charity Bloodwise has updated its advice following confusion about the advice to immuno-compromised patients to put themselves into extended self-isolation. The charity advises patients to talk to their clinical teams to assess the risks.
Regarding self-isolation for people with blood cancer, Bloodwise chief executive Gemma Peters told patients: “There is one big caveat to that isolation, which is that if you are currently undergoing treatment and have appointments at the hospital. Some of you have already begun to see changes made by your clinical team in how your care and treatment is being delivered. They are the very best placed people to make the right decisions for you.
“But it is really important that you continue to be in contact with that team and continue your cancer treatment through this period. Because clearly what we are trying to do is balance risks, and there are risks to you discontinuing your treatment that are likely to be greater than the risks to you contracting coronavirus […] So, it is really important to understand the self-isolation request does absolutely not apply to your treatment for your cancer.”
Ms Peters acknowledged there was anecdotal evidence from other countries that children with blood cancers are more resilient against the virus than adults with blood cancers. She recognised concerns about the mental health of young patients confined to home. Families should however try to follow the official advice on self-isolation and discuss concerns with clinical teams.
She added: “There are many, many thousands of people who have blood cancer and are in the same position. And their families too are in the same position.”
Meanwhile, US cancer specialists in Washington state, the first US region to be hit by the coronavirus epidemic, shared the lessons they learnt in the early days of the outbreak.
The team from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance warned that travel bans could lead to reduced access to international donors for allogeneic stem cell transplants. One of the many suggestions to maintain care for cancer patients included reducing thresholds for blood transfusions.
Their article is published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
Dr Robert Carlson, chief executive of the US National Comprehensive Cancer Network, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting every facet of our global and domestic societies and health care systems in unprecedented fashion.
“People with cancer appear to be at increased risk of COVID-19, and their outcomes are worse than individuals without cancer.”
“As is the nature of the NCCN Member Institutions, they are sharing their experience in organizing and managing institutional and care systems responses and best practices in this rapidly evolving global effort.”
Ueda M, Martins R, Hendrie PC, McDonnell T, Crews JR, Wong TL, McCreery B, Jagels B, Crane A, Byrd DR, Pergam SA, Davidson NE, Liu C, Stewart FM (2020) “Managing Cancer Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Agility and Collaboration Toward a Common Goal” J Natl Compr Canc Netw, doi: 10.6004/jnccn.2020.7560, available at: https://jnccn.org/fileasset/jnccn1804-Ueda_20118_preprint.pdf
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