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COVID-19 and Cancer - Information for Patients

Frequently asked questions for BC Cancer patients about COVID-19

Page updated: January 4, 2021

The global COVID-19 pandemic is an evolving situation. Updates to this page will be made as the situation develops and this information is currently up-to-date as of January 4, 2021. The best source of up-to-date information on COVID-19 in British Columbia is the BC Centre for Disease Control website

COVID vaccine information

The Provincial Government prioritization framework outlines the eligibility criteria and timelines for COVID-19 vaccination in B.C. Vaccines will be distributed in phases over the coming months. Dr. Henry has shared further details around the prioritization of the COVID-19 vaccine in B.C. These details are available on the Government of B.C. website.

Important information for patients with cancer:
  • The recently approved vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna rely on technologies that do not expose recipients to live or attenuated viruses.  Expert opinion is that these vaccines are likely to be safe even in patients who may be immunocompromised from their cancer or treatment. 
  • Patients with cancer, may have a diminished immune response to the vaccine due to their cancer or their cancer therapy. At this time, we do not have the evidence to know if or how much this affects the efficacy of the vaccine. However, experience with other vaccines suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are likely to be helpful in reducing the risk of COVID-19 in patients with cancer. As more information becomes available we will be updating our advice. 
  • If you have been identified as eligible for the vaccine based on the provincial prioritization and you are on active cancer treatment or are concerned that you may be immunocompromised, please discuss this with your oncologist before receiving a vaccine. 
  • Your patience is appreciated as priority groups are vaccinated in accordance with provincial guidelines.  Updates will be made on the BC Cancer website as further information becomes available. 
Visit the BC Centre for Disease Control website page on Vaccines for COVID-19 for further information.

Coming to your appointment: what you need to know

‎If you are feeling well, it is important to ensure your cancer care continues as scheduled. If you are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever or shortness of breath call your cancer centre to determine whether you should reschedule your appointment

If you are under the public health requirement to self-isolate following travel, please do not come in to the centre without calling and speaking to staff.

BC Cancer is able to provide additional virtual visits for patients. Some patients with a scheduled appointment coming up will be contacted by BC Cancer to offer a virtual appointment. Those who are not contacted should come into their centre for their appointment as scheduled if they are feeling well and not under a restriction to self-isolate.

All treatments are going ahead as planned unless you are contacted otherwise.

All patients and essential visitors must wear a medical mask when entering and moving through BC Cancer centres as well as in admitting and waiting areas. Medical masks will be provided at the main entrances upon arrival.

Until further notice, visitor restrictions remain in effect at all BC Cancer centres.

BC Cancer patients are at a higher risk for more severe symptoms associated with COVID-19. To protect all vulnerable patients and limit the risk of exposure for patients and staff, patients attending follow up appointments or receiving treatment within a BC Cancer centre will be required to attend by yourself.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be emotional and some patients may feel overwhelmed. New patients who are visiting a BC Cancer centre for a first visit/initial consultation may bring one adult support person to accompany them. Patients who require a support person to accompany them to subsequent appointments will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

‎Patients requiring transportation to get to their appointments can contact their local BC Cancer regional centre for assistance.

• Abbotsford: 604-851-4710
• Kelowna: 250-712-3900
• Prince George: 250-645-7300
• Surrey: 604-930-2098
• Vancouver: 604-877-6000
• Victoria: 250-519-5500

‎On March 30, 2020, Minister of Health Adrian Dix announced that pay parking for health care staff, physicians, patients and the public will suspended be at all hospitals across the province. This includes all BC Cancer centres. This is a temporary measure to support our staff, our patients and the public. This will take effect April 1, 2020 and will be in place until further notice.

Please contact your regional cancer centre leadership if you have any questions.

You may have a virtual health visit with your BC Cancer health care team: doctor, counsellor, nurse practitioner, dietitian, or other. You will get a call from your health care team to schedule a virtual health visit.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for your virtual health visit.

How to prepare for your Virtual Health Visit

All patients and essential visitors must wear a medical mask when entering and moving through BC Cancer centres as well as in admitting and waiting areas. 

Medical masks will be provided at the main entrances upon arrival. Patients and essential visitors wearing non-medical masks are asked to keep their personal masks with their belongings until leaving the centre. 

Cancer treatments and care

‎Due to the COVID-19 pandemic some community services have changed. We recognize the added difficulty that a cancer diagnosis can have on patients during this unprecedented time. It is important to get the right support for managing your life with cancer.

For BC Cancer patients experiencing anxiety, worry or stress for any reason, BC Cancer is still available to support you. We have online tools available to help manage stress and BC Cancer counsellors are available to speak with you over the phone.

Please see our Patient & Family Counselling page for more information.

‎At this time, it is not necessary to request additional refill quantities from your pharmacy. 

You do not need to stockpile medication. Stockpiling medications is harmful to the drug supply and could put others at risk. Your BC Cancer pharmacist can advise on the appropriate amount of medication to be dispensed. 

BC Cancer pharmacies are making arrangements to deliver medications to patients where possible, to reduce the number of patients who need to come to the centre. Please call your pharmacy to arrange for your refills.

If you are feeling unwell and require medications, please do not visit your pharmacy. Instead, call your pharmacy and they will arrange to safely provide you with any medications you may need.

‎In light of COVID-19, all in-person systemic therapy teaching sessions have been cancelled. This is a session that all new systemic therapy patients are asked to attend so they can be prepared for their systemic therapy.

While the in-person sessions are cancelled, please watch the session online.

Watch the Introduction to Systemic Therapy video here.

It is very important to watch the session online so that you are prepared for your systemic therapy.

‎Visit the Request Patient Records page for information on requesting your patient record. Fax or mail the completed form to the Health Information Management, Release of Information Office of the centre from which you are requesting records.

See the contact list for addresses and phone numbers. You do not need to come to the centre to submit the form.

‎In light of COVID-19, patients may need to reflect on their advance care plans relating to their health. This also helps the people who support you to make the decisions you would make for yourself. People who discuss what is important to them and what their wishes are often feel less anxious, more at peace and more in control.

This document will help you begin thinking about advance care planning.

BC Cancer offers a number of supportive care programs and can provide more information about advance care planning.‎

‎The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation. Patient and staff safety is our number one priority and we are committed to maintaining the best cancer care we can. BC Cancer staff are working hard to manage patient care during this time and continue to prioritize treatments. Should any protocols change, affected patients will be contacted directly.

If patients have concerns at any time throughout their care journey, they should speak with their oncologist. Should their concerns remain, we support them in contacting the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) Patient Care Quality Office, where they can speak to someone about their individual experience. Contact information can be found on PHSA and BC Cancer’s websites.

Cancer screening programs

‎‎Many cancer screening services are being temporarily suspended at this time to assist in efforts to minimize COVID-19 transmission in healthy people and to allow the health system to focus resources on urgent and emergent care.

For more information please visit here

Many cancer screening services are being affected by the COVID-19 situation in BC.

For more information please visit here

COVID and cancer: managing your risk

‎There is a wide range of symptoms for people with COVID-19 ranging from no symptoms to severe pneumonia.

It is possible that cancer patients are at a higher risk of more severe symptoms because of their lowered immune system due to medications and treatment. Like other healthy people, they should do their best to avoid infection. This includes:

• Maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others
• Washing hands frequently with soap and water (20 to 30 sec)
• Avoid touching their face
• Covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
• Staying home when sick

‎There are many things you can do reduce your risk of COVID-19 and prevent the spread in your community.

The BC Centre for Disease Control has a full list of preventative measures and actions you can take to stay healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19. ‎

Read their prevention and risk page here.

Testing is recommended for anyone with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, even mild ones.

Symptoms include:
• Fever or chills
• New or worsening cough
• Shortness of breath (new or worsening)
• Sore throat and painful swallowing
• Stuffy or runny nose
• Loss of sense of smell or taste
• Headache
• Muscle aches
• Fatigue (tiredness)
• Loss of appetite
• Nausea or vomiting
• Diarrhea

If an individual has no symptoms, they do not require a test. A healthcare provider may also decide whether a person requires testing.

You can use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help determine if you need further assessment for COVID-19 testing by a healthcare provider or at a local collection centre. You can complete this assessment for yourself, or on behalf of someone else, if they are unable to.

It is also recommended that you contact your cancer care team and inform them of how you are feeling. Some symptoms may be a side effect of treatment. Your oncologist will know more.

SOURCE: COVID-19 and Cancer - Information for Patients ( )
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