Coronavirus Guide for Cancer Patients

As the Coronavirus spreads in the United States, doctors have been clear that the risks associated with the virus are most severe for adults over 60 and people with underlying conditions or the immunocompromised, which includes patients with cancer. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has provided a summary of the COVID-19 situation thus far.

For more information about precautions that cancer patients can take to protect against the coronavirus, see Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s information sheet.


The Centers for Disease Control have provided a number of precautions that people at risk for serious illness from COVID-19 can take, including:

  • Have supplies on hand
  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Pay attention for potential COVID-19 symptoms including, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor.
  • If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs include:
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face
  • Clean your hands often — Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
  • Wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
  • Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones)
  • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
  • Avoid all non-essential travel including plane trips, and especially avoid embarking on cruise ships.

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