Patients with cancer who are undergoing treatment have a weakened immune system, which makes them more vulnerable to general infections, including COVID-19. It is particularly important for patients having chemotherapy to take extra caution during this time. Alongside the measures Icon is taking in line with the Ministry of Health guidelines to ensure the safety of our patients at our clinics, here are some general steps cancer patients can take to help protect from infections such as COVID-19.
Observe good personal hygiene and wash hands regularly
Most infections travel through the oral route. It is important to practice good hand hygiene and always wash your hands before every meal and make sure you wash your hands with soap and water for about 20 seconds and sufficiently dry them. If you don’t have access to fresh water, carry around a hand sanitiser that contains high alcohol content. Also try to avoid touching your face frequently, particularly with unclean hands.
Practice social distancing
Social distancing is one of the best ways that you can reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19. Stay 1.5 metres away from others and avoid shaking hands, hugging and kissing others.
Avoid contact with people who are sick
Avoid close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness. Steer clear of crowded places and wear a mask if you have respiratory symptoms such as a cough or runny nose. If you have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case please monitor your health and self-isolate and call your doctor to seek medical advice immediately.
Maintain a balanced diet
Nutrition will help build the body’s immune system. You should always try to maintain a balanced diet, particularly during chemotherapy treatment. There are certain foods you should avoid during treatment, ensuring you only eat cooked foods (all fruit and vegetables should be cooked or peeled) to minimise the risk of bacterial infections as the body’s immune system is weaker throughout your treatment. Similarly, avoid crowds and gatherings where it is difficult to maintain distance from others, for example family celebrations or public places. Try to reduce your contact with others to fifteen minutes of close face to face contact, or less than two hours in the same room
During cancer treatment it is important to continue an active lifestyle and exercise in accordance to what is suitable for your condition as advised by your doctor. It is recommended to exercise 30 minutes a day. This can be light exercise such as a walk in the park. If you are more comfortable with staying indoors during this time, you can exercise in your home, this can be simply walking or maybe dancing to a video.
Sleeping helps your body stay strong. The adult body needs 6 – 8 hours of sleep every day which will help build your immune system.
Healthy mental health
Poor mental health can lead to unhealthy habits. It can lead to poor diet, lack of sleep and exercise resulting in a weakened immune system. A cancer diagnosis can be a highly emotional time in someone’s life and that of their family and friends. It is important to have a trusted support network and keep a positive attitude throughout your treatment and beyond. If you are struggling please talk to your doctor who will be able to connect you with support groups and counselling services.