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COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and Childhood Cancer Survivors

As a childhood cancer survivor, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may cause you an extra sense of worry. That’s natural.

Some childhood cancer survivors may be at higher risk for developing complications of COVID-19 because they have certain medical conditions. In many cases, they developed these conditions because of the cancer treatments they received during childhood or adolescence. These are known as late effects.

Who Is at Risk for Serious COVID-19 Complications?

The Centers for Disease Control says that older people and individuals of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions appear to be at higher risk for developing complications of COVID-19.

High-risk conditions could include, according to the CDC:

  • Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Compromised immune systems
  • Obesity (body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more)
  • Other underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease
Some childhood cancer survivors may be at higher risk for developing complications of COVID-19 because they have certain medical conditions.

Some childhood cancer survivors may be at higher risk for developing complications of COVID-19 because they have certain medical conditions.

What Are Symptoms and Possible Serious Complications of COVID-19?

Mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Body aches
  • Loss of sense of smell and taste

Serious complications could be:

  • Pneumonia
  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or difficulty to wake from sleep
  • Bluish lips or face

What Should I Do If I Think I Might Have COVID-19?

  • Call your health care provider first for medical advice. Your provider will help determine next steps.
  • Remind providers, especially if they are new, that you are a childhood cancer survivor. Make sure they know about any chronic health problems you have. Also, tell your provider if you received cancer treatment that puts you at high risk for lung or heart problems (such as from chest radiation or certain chemotherapy drugs).
  • Do not visit in person before calling.
  • If you are told to go to the clinic or hospital, take your Survivorship Care Plan with you.
Simple ways to stay health include: Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Avoid close contact with large crowds of people and people who are sick. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Call your primary care team when you are sick.

How Do I Protect Myself from Coronavirus Infection?

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed the coronavirus.

Coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through droplets from a person’s sneeze or cough. In some cases, people who have the coronavirus could spread it before they show symptoms.

It may also be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eye. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Handwashing: Protect yourself and others from getting sick. Wash for 20 seconds. 1) Water and Soap. 2) Palm to palm. 3) Between fingers. 4) Thumbs 5) Back of hands 6) Wrists.

Prevention methods:

  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Keep physical distancing of 6 feet between you and others
  • Avoid buses and subways and other mass transit.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds This is especially important if you are working or visiting public spaces. 
  • If you don’t have soap and water, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth, and eyes.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow or with a tissue. Immediately throw the tissue in the trash. 
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched often such as phones, keyboards, doorknobs, light switches, and countertops at least once a day.
  • Wear a face covering when you are around people outside your household.

Should I Keep My Long-Term Follow-Up Visit Appointment During the Pandemic?

Elective well appointments should be postponed until shelter-in-place orders are lifted.

If you have concerns about specific health issues, please contact your survivorship team. The team can advise you if your medical concerns require immediate attention.

Take care of yourself by being physically active and eating a well-balanced, healthy diet.

Take care of yourself by being physically active and eating a well-balanced, healthy diet.

Take Care of Yourself

  • If you are able, take a walk outside or find other ways to stay physically active. Make sure to practice physical distancing of 6 feet between you and others.
  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet with vegetables and fruit, whole grains, dairy/ other sources of calcium and vitamin D, lean meats and seafood/ other healthy sources of protein.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Pay attention to your emotional health. The COVID-19 pandemic is stressful for many people. This stress can stir strong emotions in both children and adults. Seek help if stress and anxiety interfere with your ability to function in your daily life. The Centers for Disease Control has tips and resources for managing stress and anxiety during the pandemic.

Additional Resources


Reviewed: March 2020