Cancer and COVID19

The Canadian Cancer Society has put out this information statement that helps us share the message clearly. Please see:

Cancer and COVID19 (novel coronavirus)

What is COVID-19? COVID-19 is an illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was identified in December 2019.

Human coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They are common and often cause mild illnesses, such as the common cold. But they can also cause more serious illnesses.

What is the risk of COVID-19 to Canadians?

The Public Health Agency of Canada has indicated there is a higher risk of more severe outcomes for Canadians:

  • aged 65 and over

  • with underlying medical conditions

  • with compromised immune systems

There are also increased health risks for Canadian travellers abroad. Because of these risks, the Government of Canada advises you to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice. This includes cruise ships. All travellers must now isolate themselves for 14 days after returning from outside Canada and monitor for a fever, a cough or difficulty breathing. Check the latest travel health notices before any essential travel.

Be sure to follow the steps below to protect yourself and those around you.

Are people with cancer at a higher risk for COVID-19?

If you have cancer, you are at a higher risk for more serious outcomes of COVID-19. Cancer is considered an underlying medical condition. And some cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can compromise (weaken) your immune system, making it harder for you to fight infections.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare team if you have concerns about your risk for COVID-19 as a result of current or past cancer treatment. They are the best source of information if you have questions about your risk based on where you live in Canada or your medical history. They will also keep you updated about any possible changes to your cancer treatments during the COVID-19 outbreak.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 can spread from a person who is infected through:

  • respiratory droplets that come out of the nose or mouth when coughing or sneezing

  • close personal contact, such as hugging or shaking hands

  • touching something that the droplets have landed on, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands

Researchers are looking into whether a person can spread COVID-19 to others if they are not showing symptoms.

How can I protect myself and others from COVID-19?

There are no special precautions for people with cancer, their families or their caregivers. But everyone should carefully follow the steps below to protect themselves.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

  • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, especially with unwashed hands.

  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Use cleaning products to disinfect objects and surfaces you commonly touch, such as doorknobs, countertops, phones and toys.

  • Stay home if you are feeling sick to avoid spreading germs to others.

  • Practise social distancing, even if you are feeling well.

There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against COVID-19. If you are healthy, you do not need to wear a face mask.

For the most up-to-date information on the COVID-19 outbreak, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada for status updates and answers to frequently asked questions.

What does it mean to practise social distancing?

Respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 spread quickly in crowded spaces. Social distancing is a way to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Social distancing means avoiding close contact with others during the peak of an outbreak. In addition to staying home as much as you can, it means taking steps to reduce the spread of infection if you must go out. Avoid shaking hands, practise proper hygiene and increase the space between you and others (ideally to 2 metres, or a little over 6 feet). Avoiding crowds and gatherings can reduce the spread of infection.

What is The Olive Branch of Hope doing in response to COVID-19?

We’re here to help. Our programs play an important role in helping people better manage cancer, find community and connection, and build wellness and resilience in the comfort of their homes.

We are continuing to provide programs for people with cancer and caregivers that can be helpful if you are staying close to home or dealing with feelings of anxiety or isolation.

  • For support call us at 416-256-3155 or email

  • Canadian Cancer Society Cancer Information Service national, toll-free helpline for people with cancer, caregivers, families and friends, the general public and healthcare professionals. call us at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-886-786-3934).

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • a fever

  • a dry cough

  • pneumonia in both lungs

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

  • tiredness

Some people might also have body aches and pains, a runny nose, a sore throat or diarrhea.

Symptoms can be very mild or more serious. It may take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear after someone is exposed to COVID-19.

Some people who are infected with COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms.

What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

If you start having symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever, a cough or breathing problems:

  • stay home to isolate yourself from others, and try to stay in a separate room if you live with other people

  • immediately call your doctor or the public health authority in your province or territory and tell them your symptoms and travel history

  • follow any instructions you receive from healthcare professionals

  • call 911 if you need immediate medical attention

If you are being treated for cancer and you develop a fever, a cough or breathing problems, call your healthcare team. Follow their advice on when you should come into the office or hospital and when it’s safer to stay home.

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