Screening tests, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, and other tests such as bone density studies may be deferred to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. It is still important to get regular cancer screenings, even during a pandemic. The Prevent Cancer Foundation organization’s website can help you learn more about COVID-19 and safe cancer screening. For people who do not have a cancer diagnosis but are at high risk of developing cancer, such as people with an inherited syndrome such as Lynch syndrome and a BRCA mutation, your doctor may advise delaying diagnostic tests or procedures to reduce the risk of developing cancer. If you have concerns about your particular risk, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of delaying procedures.
Call your healthcare professional or emergency department before visiting if you have a fever and other symptoms of a respiratory illness, such as a cough or trouble breathing. Contact them if you think you may have COVID-19. Your healthcare professional will ask for information about your symptoms, travel history, exposure, and medical risk factors to determine if you will need a test for COVID-19. Then you would receive instructions on how to get a test in your community.
A frequently asked question is which doctor to call. I recommend that you call the doctor with whom you interact the most. If you have not had cancer treatment for more than a year and you are seeing a general practitioner often, call your general practitioner. However, if you are visiting your oncologist often or are undergoing cancer treatment, contact your oncologist.
If you are receiving immune-suppressing cancer treatment with fever and respiratory symptoms, contact your oncologist as you normally would if you develop a fever while receiving treatment. Be sure to follow their directions on when to go to the office or hospital and when it is safest to stay home.
Severe symptoms can be a medical emergency and you may need to call the emergency number. If you or your loved one has symptoms, such as shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in your chest, new confusion, or blue lips, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Testing for COVID-19 involves inserting a 6-inch cotton swab, similar to a Q-tip, deep into your nasal cavity for at least 15 seconds. I know