Common questions on coronavirus from those with breast cancer
The impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is being felt in communities across Australia, including for those living with a breast cancer diagnosis. To help meet the needs of our members for relevant and up-to-date information during this time, BCNA has developed a suite of content about coronavirus and breast cancer accessible through the My Journey online tool.
We know that our content is addressing a need in the community. To date, there have been over 14,000 unique page views of the coronavirus and breast cancer articles. We continue to receive a large number of member queries via the Helpline, the My Journey online tool, the online network and our social media channels.
A review of the common questions asked by members has identified the following key areas of particular concern.
Am I immunocompromised?
Women currently receiving treatment, as well as those who have completed active treatment (i.e. surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy) some months or years ago have expressed concerns about whether they are immunocompromised and what this means for them in relation to exposure to coronavirus.
The impact of specific breast cancer treatments and the risk of developing coronavirus
Enquiries have been made about a range of treatments, including surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone-blocking therapies and targeted therapies (e.g. Herceptin and CDK inhibitors). Chemotherapy has been frequently discussed, and BCNA has received a number of queries about whether hormone blocking therapy impacts the immune system. A number of women living with metastatic breast cancer have also expressed concern about the risk of exposure to coronavirus and whether the treatment they are having will impact their risk.
Will coronavirus delay my treatment or mean I will not receive treatment?
A number of members have asked whether their treatment will be impacted because hospitals are focused on coronavirus patients. They have been enquiring about whether treatment is likely to be deferred, paused of cancelled altogether. Several women were in touch about a postponement of breast reconstruction surgery. Queries have also been received about the cancellation of category two and three surgeries, such as from women with DCIS.
Tips/strategies for members who are immunocompromised and sharing a house with other family members, including children
Queries have included whether children should be kept home from school/childcare and practical tips for reducing the risk of coronavirus when living with family members who may be in contact with others which in turn increased their risk of exposure.
Finances and employment issues
A number of members have discussed financial concerns and/or issues relating to employment (e.g. loss of work, reduced hours). Conversations included concern from members who were immunocompromised and self-isolating and who worked in settings such as childcare centres or health services about whether they should go to work, and if not, what the financial implications might be.
Issues relating to emotional wellbeing, social isolation and/or anxiety
This includes increased anxiety due to coronavirus, as well as feelings of isolation, especially from members who live alone. Conversations included the risk of domestic violence when self-distancing or isolating and strategies to help with these situations.
Practical queries relating to how to protect myself
Topics have included face masks, cleaning products and hand sanitiser.
How do I get supplies at home while self-isolating? (e.g. groceries)
Should I have the flu vaccination?
My access to health services during this time
A number of people have had questions relating to accessing various health services during this time.
As a health professional, you can sign up to BCNA’s My Journey online tool so you can give your patients the information they need, when they need it most.
To refer patients to use the tool, you must first register with BCNA. You can do that here.
To find out more about using the My Journey online tool as a health professional, please click here.