At MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, our top priority is the health and well-being of our patients. Our team of physicians, nurses, and support staff are working diligently to ensure that our patients’ care treatments continue uninterrupted. In addition, we have taken important steps to reduce the risk that our patients face in contracting COVID-19 while they receive their care in our cancer centers.
“Cancer patients are at a higher risk of getting infections, including viral infections such as COVID-19, because they can be immune compromised due to the type of treatment they receive, other health conditions (like heart disease and diabetes), and their age,” says Generosa Grana, MD, Director of MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. “Someone who is immune compromised has a weaker immune system than those of the average, healthy adult – making it difficult for their body to fight off infections.
“The risk of being immune compromised is typically highest during the time of active cancer treatment, such as during treatment with chemotherapy, although some conditions like bone marrow transplantation and certain drugs can lead to longer immune suppression,” says Grana.
Cancer patients may also be at higher risk of health complications from COVID-19 due to their compromised immune system.
What we are doing to protect our patients
“Because our dedicated cancer treatment centers in Camden, Voorhees, and Willingboro are free-standing facilities or have dedicated space specifically for cancer treatment and clinical visits, we are able to limit the exposure our patients have to the general population,” says Frank Spitz, MD, Deputy Director of MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper.
The team at MD Anderson at Cooper is following all guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our partner MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the American College of Surgeons to protect our patients from exposure to the virus.
We have implemented a strict “no visitor” policy in our cancer offices and are conducting COVID-19 screenings in all of our cancer facilities to protect the health and safety of our patients and staff. (See below for all of the steps we are taking to protect our patients and our team.)
We are working to ensure that our patients are receiving their cancer treatments on schedule and as planned – without any delay or interruption.
“Currently, patients who are scheduled for surgery as part of their cancer treatment are having their surgery as planned,” says Dr. Spitz, who is also the Vice Chair of the Department of Surgery at Cooper University Health Care. “We may need to reschedule some surgeries to avoid hospitalizations that could put our patients at risk of exposure. We will evaluate each patient on a case-by-case basis following the American College of Surgery guidelines and clinical judgment, and will only postpone surgeries if we feel there is no risk to patient outcomes.”
What you can do to protect yourself
“For cancer patients it’s especially important to follow the guidelines issued by the CDC to avoid the risk of contracting the virus,” says Dr. Spitz. “Things like keeping social distance, frequent and proper hand washing, avoiding crowds, keeping surfaces clean and disinfected, and not touching your face with your hands are important for everyone but especially for cancer patients and others at high risk.”
“According to the CDC there is no reason cancer patients need to take additional measures,” says Dr. Grana. For more information for those at high-risk, visit the CDC website.
We are in this together
Teams throughout our health system are working closely with leaders from the CDC, Departments of Health, and local health officials to monitor and respond to this evolving situation. Our top priority at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper is keeping our patients safe and informed about COVID-19 while they get their cancer treatment.
For useful, reliable resources for cancer patients, our team recommends the following web sites:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have special guidelines for high-risk groups.
- The American Cancer Society has an informative Q&A guide to COVID-19 and cancer patients.
- The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health has a special section on their website about Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know.
- For more information regarding COVID-19 in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Department of Health website here.
If you are an MD Anderson at Cooper patient currently receiving cancer treatment or have recently completed treatment, and think you might have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of the virus (fever, cough, and shortness of breath) here’s what you should do:
- Call MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper’s call center at 855.MDA.COOPER and ask to speak with a triage nurse.
- Our triage nurse will speak with you about your symptoms and the best steps for you to take.
What we are doing to protect our patients when they come to our facilities for appointments and treatments:
- We have created a three part screening process for all patients:
- Our team members are calling patients the evening before their appointment to confirm their appointment and conduct a COVID-19 screening.
- Our nurses will screen all patients as they enter the building
- Our team will also conduct a screening at their point of service (radiation, infusion, clinic)