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Breast Cancer and COVID-19

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March 31, 2020

Everything you need to know if you are affected by breast cancer, in remission or in the screening process.

Everything you need to know if you are affected by breast cancer, in remission or in the screening process

As of March 31, 2020

1. What is coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 is caused by CoV-2-SARS, a new type of coronavirus. Human coronaviruses are common and usually cause mild, cold-like symptoms. But they can also cause more serious illnesses. The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by the SARS-coV-2 virus, which leads to mild to severe respiratory infections. Like other viruses, it can bring on serious infection for people with weakened immune systems. There is currently no vaccine to help control its spread, but experts are working on developing a vaccine and an antiviral treatment.

For more information: https://www.hss.gov.nt.ca/en/services/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/about-covid-19

2. How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus can be caught easily, just like a cold or flu. COVID-19 spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes droplets that can get into the eyes, nose or mouth of people nearby. These droplets also land on surfaces that people touch before they then bring their hands to their own eyes, nose or mouth.

3. You are currently in breast cancer treatment. Does this increase you risk of catching COVID-19?

For people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, it is very important to know that some breast cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapies and radiation therapy, can weaken the immune system and may eventually lead to lung complications. If people with weakened immune systems contract COVID-19, the risk of such complications may be higher.

People with metastatic breast cancer in the lungs may also have lung issues that can worsen if they are infected with COVID-19.

Although people in active treatment for breast cancer may be at a higher risk of complications if they contract COVID-19, it is important to understand that vulnerable populations do not have a higher risk of being infected in the first place.

For more information: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/vulnerable-populations-covid-19.html

4. What precautions should you take if you are currently in breast cancer treatment or in remission of breast cancer?

People with breast cancer and their loved ones must follow the same public health recommendations as everyone else:

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Don’t travel from one region to another
  • Stay home
  • Call 1-877-644-4545 if you have a cough or fever

Consult all the instructions and directives of the Government of Quebec: https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/instructions-directives/

Ask your doctor or nurse if they have any special recommendations for you, based on your health and type of treatment.

5. Should your breast cancer treatments be delayed, given the current situation?

Although the medical recommendations related to COVID-19 may change certain methods, they will not jeopardize your care or your health.

A prioritization plan has been developed with experts to sort out what types of treatments, surgeries and exams are and will be postponed. This plan takes into consideration the impact on prognosis, type of breast cancer and timelines.

Unless the hospital tells you not to come in, you must go to your appointments. Any decision to postpone cancer treatment will be made on a case-by-case basis by your healthcare team.

Decision-making is quickly evolving in healthcare institutions. Talking with your doctor is the best way to ensure that you get the best possible care in this situation.

6. Does hormonal therapy weaken my immune system?

The immune system is weakened when cancer treatment affects the count of blood cells that are important for fighting infections such as white blood cells. There is no concrete evidence that adjuvant hormone therapy affects the blood count and reduces the count of immune cells (lymphocytes, neutrophils and others). Please do not stop your adjuvant therapy before consulting your nurse or doctor.

7. What should you do if you are being screened for breast cancer?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, modifications to the Québec Breast Cancer Screening Program are being implemented to reduce the risks of contamination for the public and for health professionals alike. All breast cancer screening and follow-up examinations are postponed until further notice.

Consult the modifications to the service here: https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/advice-and-prevention/screening-and-carrier-testing-offer/quebec-breast-cancer-screening-program/eligibility/