Best Practices Against COVID When Commuting or Traveling
Pancreatic Cancer News – April, 2020
Pancreatic Cancer Patients Must Consider Best Practices Against COVID-19 When Commuting or Traveling
Written By Debra Gelbart
In Conjunction With Dr. Erkut Borazanci
With The HonorHealth Research Institute
What Should We Know About Protecting Yourself From This New Threat?
If you’re a pancreatic cancer patient or caregiver, you already have plenty to be concerned about, plan for and respond to. Now COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, complicates your life even further.
The Seena Magowitz Foundation asked Erkut Borazanci, M.D., M.S., a Medical Oncologist/Clinical Investigator with HonorHealth Research Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona, what patients should be most concerned about with this new virus.
Here is what he told us about traveling to medical appointments and taking care of yourself generally in this new environment in which we find ourselves.
Whether commuting by auto to a local treatment center , or traveling cross-country by plane for a clinical trial treatment or checkup, it’s important to be prepared to protect yourself against this new virus.
“As oncologists we’re worried about patients’ cancer first and foremost,” Dr. Borazanci said, “but we do have concern over COVID-19. The most important thing one can do while traveling is limit the chance of contracting the virus.” Hand washing with soap is very effective, he emphasized, and it’s wise to use hand sanitizer that contains least 60 percent alcohol.
On a plane, he said, it’s a good idea to wear a simple surgical mask (even a bandana or scarf can be effective). Know your white blood count before getting on the plane (blood-work within a week before travel is advised), especially if you’re in treatment, he suggested.
Life Off The Plane
Once you get to your medical facility, “keep in mind that every hospital in the United States is trying to prevent or limit the spread of the virus,” Dr. Borazanci said. “At our HonorHealth Research Institute we’re screening anyone who walks in the door. We’re checking their temperature, offering hand sanitizer and we’re limiting the number of visitors who can accompany the patients.”
One visitor per patient is typically the limit, he said. “A lot of clinics around the country, including our own, are adapting the use of telemedicine. A lot of visits that can be conducted by phone or video conference are occurring that way.” He cautioned that the processes can change day by day or week by week, depending on the severity of the virus outbreak.
Back At Home
Here is additional advice from Dr. Borazanci:
- You may want to designate someone to go to the supermarket for you, because that environment (where it may be difficult to stay six feet away from other shoppers and where it’s impossible not to touch surfaces and items touched by dozens or more before you) can be risky for anyone considered more susceptible to this virus, he said. Several grocery stores also offer home delivery.
- Be aware of special considerations for pancreatic cancer patients. “There is still a lot of emerging data about what pancreatic cancer patients need to keep in mind about avoiding COVID-19,” he said. “With pancreas cancer specifically, some patients deal with diabetes. Diabetes is a systemic medical condition that can make any individual susceptible to infection. If a pancreatic cancer warrior’s cancer has spread to their lungs, they have to be especially careful to avoid possible exposure to the virus. We don’t have evidence that having this cancer alone leads to a worse outcome with the virus, but we do know that some medical conditions associated with pancreatic cancer may result in a more serious course for the infection.”
- Limit your interactions even with family members who don’t live with you. “Practice social distancing and be mindful that family members or friends could be carrying the virus and expose you to it.”
- Don’t stop your treatment regimen. “There is no evidence that being on chemo or a maintenance medication puts one at greater risk of getting the virus,” he said.
- Take stock of your prescriptions and make sure to fill your prescriptions if necessary. “But don’t try to hoard your medications. Check a week ahead to make sure your local pharmacy can fill your prescriptions. We don’t want to overwhelm the system through hoarding.”
- For loved ones of pancreatic cancer warriors: focus on the patient and their pancreatic cancer. “There may greater challenges because of visitation limitations,” Dr. Borazanci said. “Be careful for yourself, to ensure you’re doing what you can to be there for your loved one.”
- If you’re hoping to travel for a family event: “Continue to be aware of what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advise on leisure travel and gatherings. “We don’t know how long it’s going to be before we can safely say we can have a large wedding or social event where a lot of people gather. A lot of research is ongoing to better understand and combat the virus. If you have big plans, stay flexible.”
- Stay informed about COVID-19 generally. Visit your local hospital website as well as the CDC website for the latest information, Dr. Borazanci suggested. For information about the disease relevant to cancer patients, visit the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) website. “Be careful about what you read and hear,” he said. “Some of it may not be accurate or comprehensive. There are a lot of patient-guided and -directed resources that are reliable, such as the three I just mentioned.”
- Remain optimistic. “We will continue to work on developing treatments as we’re able to offer greater and expanded testing,” Dr. Borazanci said. “I’m optimistic that there will be a way to treat the virus effectively and that we’ll be able to protect ourselves from getting it through a vaccine. I wish I could offer a specific time, but rest assured there are a lot of smart, hardworking individuals focusing on this behind the scenes. We’re all affected by this, and we can all do our part to slow the spread: work from home when possible, avoid social gatherings and remain vigilant.”