A rising number of coronavirus cases have hit Houston, Texas, forcing a top cancer hospital to take in positive COVID-19 patients — is this city the new epicenter of the outbreak?
Published Jul 2, 2020
The growing coronavirus outbreak in Houston is apparently leading MD Anderson Cancer Center to take in cancer patients who tested positive for COVID-19 patients from Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. The rising number of coronavirus cases in Texas means that cancer patients undergoing treatment may face the same sort of treatment changes that occurred as New York cancer centers adjusted to crisis levels of COVID cases.
“MD Anderson has reviewed Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order ‘relating to the need for increased hospital capacity during the COVID-19 disaster’ that went into effect on Saturday,” MD Anderson said in a statement. “We are taking appropriate steps to ensure compliance with the executive order while continuing to provide all necessary cancer care to our patients in a timely fashion and without delays.”
In light of rising cases, MD Anderson has adjusted guidelines by listing 12 effective ways the hospital will ensure that staff and patients remain safe and healthy. According to their website, all people entering the hospital will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, current patients will undergo asymptomatic testings, staff and patients are required to wear face masks, and visitation is suspended except in certain circumstances.
When COVID-19 cases surged, fortunately many cancer centers were able to quickly adjust. Oncologists have prioritized virtual resources such as telemedicine as a way for patients to recieve treatment. However In order to detect diseases such lung or breast cancer, in person scans are needed and oncologists often must physically examine a patient by listening to their lungs or feeling their breasts for lumps.
While some elective surgeries have been delayed across the country, it’s important that you talk to your oncologist about whether hands-on treatment and screenings are possible, as patients who are in need of immediate surgery may be able to access treatment. If you’re scared about delaying surgery, talk to your doctor about it immediately.
In dozens of conversations with oncologists around the country, SurvivorNet has found that top physicians have very quickly started to adapt how they treat patients while meeting the new demands created by the pandemic.
Additionally, experts say that in certain circumstances surgeries will be considered and some clinical trials are still accepting participants. Of course, exceptions to restrictions are made on a case-by-case basis. Surgeons are trying to use data from previous studies to guide their decisions around changing the order of treatment, in some cases employing medicines before surgery. In early stage breast and lung cancer, practitioners tell SurvivorNet that many patients will not necessarily do worse when chemotherapy is given first and surgery is delayed.
Despite disruptions in cancer treatment and research, a top lung cancer surgeon in New York City says that his patients are making it through. “Patients are doing surprisingly well,” Dr. Brendon Stiles, a thoracic surgeon at Weill Cornell Medical Center, tells SurvivorNet. “There’s obviously a lot of anxiety out there among the people we treat.”
Dr. Marianna Strongin, a clinical psychologist and founder of Strong In Therapy, has been helping the SurvivorNet community by sharing coping mechanisms and a structured way to think about handling heightened anxiety during COVID-19. Dr. Strongin says that one of the main causes of anxiety is uncertainty about life, and the outbreak is fueling anxiety for individuals because of the lack of answers about the virus. Many people will turn to media platforms for answers, but Dr. Strongin says that individuals often end up with more questions as a result — which leads to more anxiety.
The first step for coping during stressful circumstances is understanding one’s anxiety. To do this, Dr. Strongin suggests checking in with oneself everyday to see where the anxiety is manifesting and what questions are causing the anxiety. From there, it’s important to answer those questions and reassure oneself with positivity.
Additionally, many people are turning to news channels to find answers to questions they might have. Dr. Strongin says that in many cases, watching the news can increase one’s fear and anxiety as it often leaves people with more questions.
“Similarly to a cancer diagnosis, people go on the internet looking for an answer and not looking for their doctors to answer it, and what they come out with are more questions,” Dr. Strongin says. “More questions equal more anxiety. So, let’s all figure out what the question is, and if we can’t answer it ourselves, and we can’t self-soothe ourselves, let’s look for a doctor that can provide us with the facts.”