There is a lot of ongoing research to understand the effect of cancer and its treatment on the outcomes of patients who contract COVID-19. Cancer patients could be at greater risk from COVID-19 because their immune systems are suppressed or they have other conditions due to their cancer or its treatment. Cancer patients are also at increased risk of exposure to the virus due to hospital/GP surgery visits during their cancer care.
This article summarises the work done to understand the risk of COVID-19 to patients with cancer, which could help healthcare teams put in place systems to minimise the patient’s risk of contracting COVID-19 or experiencing complications associated with the virus.
The current evidence suggests that patients with cancer, particularly blood or lung cancer, are likely at increased risk of severe COVID-19 compared with patients without cancer. The reason for this is not clear, but the risk of death increases with older age and the presence of other health conditions, both of which are common among patients with cancer.
Most of the data collected so far suggest that anticancer treatments do not have an effect on COVID-19 outcomes, although chemotherapy may increase the risk of death. However, it is important to note that these studies involve small numbers of patients and more data are needed to show how cancer treatments affect the outcomes from COVID-19 infection.
Some studies suggest that steroids may increase the risk of death; however, the small number of patients in these studies limit the researchers to draw any firm conclusions from the data.