- About Breast Cancer
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What is coronavirus?
The new coronavirus was first detected in China in late 2019. This coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2. It causes the respiratory disease COVID-19 (which stands for coronavirus disease 2019).
Most cases of COVID-19 are mild. However, some cases are severe and can lead to death.
For the latest information on the coronavirus, visit the CDC website.
Am I at risk of getting coronavirus?
People who are older or who have other health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, are at greater risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.
If you have breast cancer and are on chemotherapy or immunotherapy, or you have metastatic breast cancer, your immune system may be weakened. This means you have an increased risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
Check the CDC website and your local public health department website for the latest information.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms of coronavirus are:
- Shortness of breath
Some hospitals are also screening for runny nose and nasal congestion.
These symptoms tend to appear 2-14 days after exposure to coronavirus. However, a person may be contagious before symptoms appear.
If you have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19, call your doctor.
What can I do to protect myself and my family?
To avoid being exposed to coronavirus, the CDC recommends you:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after going to the bathroom, before eating, before touching your face, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid crowds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Ask people who come to your home to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer when they arrive.
- Stay home as much as possible.
For additional information about coronavirus (COVID-19) for people with cancer, visit the American Society of Clinical Oncology website.
What can I do to reduce stress?
This is a stressful time. To reduce stress, the CDC recommends:
- Taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories about coronavirus, including social media.
- Taking care of yourself. Try taking deep breaths, stretching or meditating. Try to eat healthy meals, get some exercise, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Making time to do things you enjoy, such as taking a walk, gardening, knitting, reading a book or cooking.
- Talking with others about your concerns and how you’re feeling. Call, FaceTime or Skype with family and friends.
Susan G. Komen’s Breast Care Helpline:
1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636)
Our Breast Care Helpline can provide information, social support and help with coping strategies related to anxiety or concerns during these uncertain times. Calls to the helpline are answered by a trained and caring staff member in English or Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. You can also email the helpline at email@example.com.
Will my breast cancer surgery be postponed?
Maybe. Hospitals have limited resources and staff and this may cause some surgeries and other procedures to be postponed. You may hear the term “elective surgery.” This doesn’t mean your surgery isn’t important. It just means it’s not urgent or life-threatening.
- If you’re newly diagnosed with breast cancer and your breast surgery is postponed, it doesn’t mean you won’t get treatment right away. However, your first treatment may be chemotherapy or hormone therapy instead of surgery.
- Many people already get chemotherapy or hormone therapy before breast surgery. This is called neoadjuvant therapy. Neoadjuvant therapy can increase your surgical options. If you have a large tumor, neoadjuvant therapy may shrink the tumor enough that a lumpectomy becomes an option to a mastectomy. Whether you get chemotherapy before or after surgery doesn’t impact your survival.
- Now, more people will likely be getting neoadjuvant therapy. For example, if you will need chemotherapy after surgery, your doctor may postpone your surgery and start you on neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
- Some women with very small estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers who will not need chemotherapy may get neoadjuvant hormone therapy for a period of time. These women will also be treated with hormone therapy after surgery as hormone therapy is given for 5-10 years, so not all of the hormone therapy will be given up front.
- Remember, survival is the same whether you get neoadjuvant therapy or you get chemotherapy or hormone therapy after surgery. And, neoadjuvant therapy may increase the chance you can have a lumpectomy instead of a mastectompy
- If you have an aggressive breast cancer, your surgery will not likely be delayed. For example, if you have triple negative breast cancer and have completed neoadjuvant therapy, your surgery will not likely be postponed.
What if I have an upcoming appointment with my doctor?
During this crisis, your doctor may offer phone or video consults instead of in-person office visits. This may be helpful for you, depending on the purpose of the appointment.
Does ‘social distancing’ or ‘shelter in place’ impact my ability to get treatment?
No. Going to the hospital is an essential service and is not affected by social distancing or shelter in place orders.
Can I still bring someone with me to my doctor’s appointment?
Many hospital now limit the number people you can bring with you to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Call your hospital or check the website for their current policies. Don’t bring someone with you who has a fever or cough.
If you have a fever, cough or other symptoms, that’s OK. It’s helpful to let your doctor know this before you go to your appointment.
Should I be worried if my routine screening mammogram is delayed?
Due to limits on resources and staff and to minimize exposure to COVID-19, your hospital or imaging center may postpone screening mammograms for some women. If you’re at average risk and have no signs of breast cancer and have had a mammogram in the past year or so, your mammogram may be postponed. Do not worry if this happens to you.
Study findings show for women 50-74, the benefits of mammography screening every year are similar to the benefits of mammography screening every 2 years . In fact, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends mammography screening every 2 years for women ages 50-74 . The American Cancer Society recommends mammography every 2 years for women, starting at 55 .
However, if you have any warning signs of breast cancer or notice any changes in your breast or underarm area, call your doctor.
If you have questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) and breast cancer, visit the American Society of Clinical Oncology website.
- Siu AL on behalf of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for breast cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 164(4):279-96, 2016.
- American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society recommendations for the early detection of breast cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/american-cancer-society-recommendations-for-the-early-detection-of-breast-cancer.html, 2017.