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Telehealth And At-Home Treatment Options Increase For Cancer Patients During COVID-19

Telehealth and at-home treatment options are on the rise for cancer patients during COVID-19.
Telehealth and at-home treatment options are on the rise for cancer patients during COVID-19. Photo Credit: Jaime/Adobe Stock

While the COVID-19 pandemic drags onward, many are left to worry not just about the virus, but about their regular medical treatments that may have been interrupted by a virus with a lot of question marks.

For cancer patients, especially those undergoing treatment, COVID-19 has its own set of challenges.

Many individuals with cancer who are undergoing treatments may have compromised immune systems. This can put them at higher risk of having negative outcomes if they contract COVID-19. If exposed to the virus, these patients may require isolation for a longer time than normal and should consult with their treating physicians.

Contracting COVID-19 puts them not just at risk of complications from the virus, but may also interrupt any cancer treatments that they might be undergoing. When a patient receiving cancer treatments tests positive for COVID-19, they must quarantine for at least the duration recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thereby delaying any treatment that would occur during that window.

“Apart from the CDC guidelines, there may be institutional guidelines at the individual Cancer Centers which may also affect when you can resume your treatment,” said Dr. Keyur Thakar, a Medical Oncologist at Phelps Hospital, Northwell Health. “These should be discussed with the treating physician.”

Additionally, telehealth services have become a critical component of continuing patient care in a safe manner during the pandemic.

“Telemedicine has been an excellent resource during the past year with the pandemic,” Dr. Thakar said. “It has helped us to limit the total number of patients seen in the office and waiting room. We have used telehealth very early on since the onset of the pandemic and over time have made improvisations to make it as convenient and thorough as possible. However, there are limitations to telehealth such as inability to perform physical examination.”

And it’s more than just an opportunity to speak or video chat with your doctor through your phone or computer that Phelps is offering. Believe it or not, at-home blood work is also available.

Through LabFly, a mobile app designed by Northwell Health Labs, those needing blood work can schedule a blood draw within the comfort of their own homes. The Northwell Health lab experts will come to your home, wearing the necessary personal protective equipment, follow guidelines and draw your blood for testing.

While you cannot get tested for COVID-19 from these at-home tests, LabFly is another way that Phelps Hospital/Northwell Health is facilitating blood work from the comfort and safety of your home and limiting those at risk from having to visit a laboratory and have unnecessary exposure to the virus.

Ultimately, those undergoing cancer treatments should not let the pandemic prevent them from getting their necessary cancer treatments. Regarding the COVID vaccine, discuss with your oncologist about any contraindications and appropriate timing of administration. For the most part, the vaccine is important for everyone, including those undergoing cancer treatment.

As always, regular preventative care is critical for the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer. If you or a loved one is in need of a cancer screening, you can reach Dr. Thakar and The Northwell Health Cancer Institute at Phelps Hospital by calling (914) 366-1600 for a consultation.

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