How to Cope with COVID-19 as a
Pancreatic Cancer Patient

By Vanessa Steil- March 26, 2020


Since the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was officially declared a pandemic, more and more states across the country are asking people to stay home to help flatten the curve and prevent overwhelming hospitals. But for pancreatic cancer patients, this news may seem incredibly alarming, especially when actively undergoing treatment and faced with the possibility of postponing regularly scheduled medical appointments.

Here are some ways pancreatic cancer patients can maintain their care while navigating the challenging and changing landscape around COVID-19:

  1. Minimize your exposure to the virus: Cancer patients are strongly encouraged to stay home and self-isolate to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.“It’s well established that patients with cancer are more susceptible to infections than healthy individuals; this is due mostly to a compromised immune system, especially for those who are undergoing chemotherapy or recently completed chemotherapy or are taking an immunosuppressive drug like a steroid,” explains Dr. Allyson Ocean, a gastrointestinal oncologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine and co-founder of Lustgarten Foundation affiliate Let’s Win. Be sure to confirm you appointment with your medical team before all scheduled appointments. To minimize exposure, patients may be asked to reschedule physician appointments deemed not medically necessary, or to follow different procedures for arriving at their care center for treatment.

Ask your care team what precautions they and their family members should take before arriving. 

  • Should they come prepared with a mask and gloves?
  • Will they sit in a general waiting room or will they be taken to a separate area?
  • Is the hospital limiting the number of family members or guests per patient?
  1. Use telemedicine to connect with your care team: If medical appointments are non-life-threatening and need to be rescheduled, request a virtual visit via telemedicine, if possible. Thanks to ever-expanding technology, it’s easier than ever to quickly converse with your doctor over secure, HIPPA-compliant platforms without the added risk of accidental exposure from in-person visits. Telemedicine appointments may be covered by insurance, but check with your insurance provider for specific details and associated costs. For patients without access to a computer, these visits may even be held over the phone.
  2. Talk to your doctor to see if keeping your chemotherapy appointment is the right option: Since pancreatic cancer patients could be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and may experience more serious symptoms from the virus, talk to your doctor about whether continuing any treatment during this time is the right option for your specific case. Patients should also speak with their doctor about the possibility of contracting COVID-19 and what to do should that situation arise.

Questions to ask your doctor:

  • How will COVID-19 affect my treatment plan? Is there anything I need to do differently?
  • What precautions has your office/treatment site put in place to limit my exposure?
  • If I contracted COVID-19, would I need to be hospitalized or would I be cared for at home?*

*It might be a good idea for a patient to prepare in advance if they think any kind of services such as nursing or palliative care will be needed in the near future. We suggest being mindful under these extreme conditions.

  1. Consider joining an online support group: For patients who feel isolated during this time, joining an online support group such as our Pancreatic Cancer Connections, in partnership with Let’s Win and Inspire, a leading healthcare social network, may be a helpful resource. Pancreatic Cancer Connections provides a safe space for pancreatic cancer patients and their loved ones to share their experiences, gain valuable coping resources, and support one another. Patients and loved ones can sign up for Pancreatic Cancer Connections at no cost and will be welcomed into an engaging and supportive community.
  2. Call us at the Lustgarten Foundation:Though we are currently working remotely, we are still available to answer your questions. If you are a pancreatic cancer patient, caregiver, survivor or loved one please reach out to us with questions about pancreatic cancer. Our Patient Information Coordinator can provide you with valuable information and may be able to help you attain the resources you need during this challenging time.

We understand these are uncertain times for everyone—but especially for pancreatic cancer patients navigating treatment and care. Now and always, the Lustgarten Foundation is committed to providing you with pertinent information to help ease your fears and we stand ready to guide you to the best of our ability. Patients may wish to regularly check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) and the World Health Organization(WHO) for the most up-to-date and reliable information regarding COVID-19.

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