COVID-19 effects on chemotherapy treatments for cancer patients

Updated: Mar. 23, 2020 at 6:33 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The family of a Tennessee man who died from COVID-19 this weekend said he was recently diagnosed with cancer. Immuno-compromised people, like cancer patients, have a higher chance of dying from the virus.

Cancer patients at Baptist Memorial Hospital are already feeling the weight of this pandemic. Some are asking doctors to make a scary decision.

Tennessee man dies of COVID-19
Tennessee man dies of COVID-19(WMC)

“I had five encounters with patients and a couple of them had to get chemotherapy so a burning question in their mind was should I go through with this chemotherapy,” Dr. Shailesh Satpute said.

Dr. Satpute said patients are weighing what’s more dangerous -- leaving the house or missing a chemotherapy treatment. He said it’s a logical question for patients to ask because COVID-19 in an immuno-compromised person can not only be more deadly, it can derail chemotherapy treatments.

“It is our guidelines to withhold chemotherapy from anyone with an infection,” Dr. Satpute said. “Even in the absence of a pandemic, I would withhold chemotherapy from anyone with a flu-like illness.”

Dr. Satpute said having someone with an infection undergo chemotherapy can quickly kill a patient.

He said there are already studies, albeit small studies, out of China about how the virus impacts cancer patients.

“They found out about 39% of those patients had to be immitted to ICU, had it a lot more severe,” Dr. Satpute said.

The family of one of the COVID-19 patients in Tennessee who died over the weekend said their loved one was recently diagnosed with cancer. In an Instagram post by his sister, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, she said her brother’s “immune system was compromised,” and he was eventually put in a medically induced coma.

She added the former marine “fought it hard, as hard as he could, but it was simply too much for his body to take.” Flanagan said this is why we must stay home.

Dr. Satpute said the Baptist Oncology Department said it’s looking to use more telemedicine during this pandemic.

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