COVID-19 is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation.
Get the latest public health information from CDC: https://www.coronavirus.gov.
Get the latest research from NIH: https://www.nih.gov/coronavirus.

While I am not an infectious disease expert or a virologist, I would like to share with you some of the things we are learning. We will cover how to protect yourself and reputable resources you can turn to. Before we jump into that, let’s talk about your immune system a bit more.

Cancer and Being Immunocompromised

When you listen to the reports you will often hear newscasters saying things like “this only affects people who are immunocompromised.” While that sentence can bring a sigh of relief to most people, this does not create comfort for someone that has been diagnosed with cancer.

Why? Because, when you have cancer you are told you are immunocompromised. But how do you know if you are? And are all people with cancer immunocompromised?

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines immunocompromise as this:

“Having a weakened immune system. Patients who are immunocompromised have a reduced ability to fight infections and other diseases. This may be caused by certain diseases or conditions, such as AIDS, cancer, diabetes, malnutrition, and certain genetic disorders. It may also be caused by certain medicines or treatments, such as anticancer drugs, radiation therapy, and stem cell or organ transplant. Also called immunosuppressed.”

Symptoms of Immunocompromise Can Include:

  • Fatigue
  • Slow wound healing
  • Frequent infections

Some Labs That Could Show Immunocompromise Include:

  • White Blood Cell Count (WBC)
    • WBC total
    • Neutrophils
    • Leukocytes
  • Glucose, Fasting
  • Kidney and Liver Function Tests

Additional (but not always necessary) Tests can Include:

  • IgG
  • hsCRP
  • Cytokines (IL-6, IL-10, IL-2)

What can you do if you are immunocompromised to support your immune system?

You can read more at this blog, here: https://drheatherpaulson.com/keeping-your-immunity-strong-during-cancer-treatments/

CANCER and COVID

I had the great opportunity to interview my friend Dr. Tom Moorcroft. He was an ER doctor, and now focuses his private practice on supporting people with infectious disease.

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Dr Tom Moorcroft from Dr. Heather Paulson on Vimeo.

And I was interviewed by Bridgit Danner about COVID and Cancer:

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One question I had about my patients with cancer was, are they at an increased risk?

What I learned was that according to the World Health Organization the risk of getting COVID and having complications are:

  • 3.5% for overall population
  • 7.6% for people with cancer
  • 1.4% for people with no comorbid conditions
  • 13.2% for people with cardiovascular disease
  • 9.2% for people with diabetes
  • 8.4% for people with hypertension
  • 8.0% for people with chronic respiratory disease

PROTECTING YOURSELF DURING COVID

According to the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO), first and foremost, you need to be aware of the symptoms associated with COVID including:

For personal protection, at this time wearing a mask and gloves is not recommended. We keep looking towards the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for more guidance, which is often shifting.

For now, it is being recommended to potentially postpone surveillance procedures and visits, but this should, of course, be discussed with your medical oncologist. Another option may be to use Telemedicine visits to support your health.

Of course, the CDC is also recommending lifestyle interventions to support your immune function. These are not rocket science suggestions, but it is worth remembering how important it is for your health and wellness. Things like:

  • Sleeping 8 – 10 hours per night
  • Exercising, even gentle exercise, daily
  • Diet: eat 7 – 9 servings of fruits and vegetables, drink water to stay hydrated, reduce or avoid sugar

EMERGING THERAPIES

As time passes, we will learn more and more about what worked and what didn’t work against COVD. Here are things I am keeping an eye on: