An FAQ for Patients
The United States currently has the greatest number of positive coronavirus cases in the world. As a result, proton therapy centers and radiation oncology clinics must endeavor to protect patients from COVID-19 while continuing effective treatment programs.
As radiation oncology programs across the county adapt to a reduction in referrals and develop new safety strategies, what can you and your family now expect during proton therapy, IMRT or SBRT? We’ve compiled some Frequently Asked Questions to help.
What should I do to prepare for my appointment?
- Make sure you understand all telemedicine options available to you. Some on-treatment visits and follow-up visits will be conducted over the phone, unless your case requires a physical examination.
- Please call your doctor before you come for your cancer treatment if you have:
- A fever, cough, or shortness of breath
- Had exposure to someone with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis
- Traveled outside of the United States in the last 14 days
- Traveled on a cruise ship in the last 14 days
- Plan on minimizing the amount of supplies you bring to your appointment.
What if I’m traveling from out of state?
- Your institution will most likely contact you well in advance of your appointment to help you understand their current approach to patient scheduling.
- Some institutions have enacted a self-quarantine requirement for established patients coming from outside the state (for example, 14 days of self-quarantine prior to clinic visit, simulation, or initiation of therapy, and a continuation of self-quarantine while under treatment).
- Some institutions have enacted a requirement for new patients coming from outside the state to have a negative test result for COVID-19 prior to proceeding with the first appointment.
Who can come with me to my appointment?
- Some facilities allow one caretaker per patient during consult appointments only, others have enacted a zero-visitor policy, with exceptions for adults with neurocognitive impairments and for pediatric patients.
- Caretakers, other than for pediatric patients, are sometimes asked to remain outside for all other appointments.
- Often, no children under the age of 12, or 18, are allowed, unless they are the patient.
What can I expect when I arrive?
- Often, patients are asked to arrive no more than 10 minutes before your scheduled appointment time.
- Many institutions have established separate patient and employee screening checkpoints at main entrances.
- When you arrive at your institution, you and your caretaker will most likely be screened before you enter the building.
What should I do when I’m there to help protect myself?
- Wear a mask.
- Wash your hands – wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing or being in a public space.
- Don’t touch your face – especially your nose, mouth and eyes. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue whenever possible, or your elbow, if necessary. Wash your hands immediately after.
- Practice social distancing – avoid crowds and close contact with people who are sick, keeping a distance of about 6 feet.
- Leave the building when your appointment is done – don’t linger.
What are facilities doing to protect me?
Cancer treatment centers across the country are taking all necessary steps possible to protect and care for patients, visitors and staff, such as:
- Following protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Seeking expert guidance from within your institution and around the world
- Responding to sometimes rapidly changing state and local orders and variances regarding operations
- Increasing the frequency of cleaning facilities and equipment, including high-touch surfaces such as door handles, elevator buttons, reception desk and lobby furniture
- Adding more hand sanitizer dispensers throughout buildings
- Promoting hand hygiene and providing surgical masks to all patients, visitors and staff
Where can I find additional information about cancer and COVID-19?
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has partnered with the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) to provide excellent resources for cancer patients regarding COVID-19. To learn more, visit the CDC’s website.