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Healthcare providers work to protect cancer patients from coronavirus

Sara Grethlein.JPG
Posted at 5:59 PM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-09 18:36:48-04

CARMEL — Cancer centers are taking extra precautions to keep patients undergoing treatment protected as the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to increase in Indiana.

Getting a cancer diagnosis is scary. Adding to that fear is the thought of being at an increased risk for COVID-19.

"People around the world are concerned about the coronavirus right now so cancer patients are already going through a time of anxiety and this just makes it worse," Dr. Sara Grethlein, medical director of the IU Health Joe and Shelly Schwarz Cancer Center and the Simon Cancer Center, said.

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Grethlein said patients already grappling with one challenging diagnosis are potentially staring right at another.

"Patients undergoing chemotherapy are at a greater risk for all of the viral illnesses out there," Grethlein said.

As more cases appear, experts are trying to understand the virus.

"We are all learning about this particular variant of coronavirus," Grethlein said. "There are many of them but this particular coronavirus all the information is new."

What the experts do know is that cancer patients and survivors with compromised immune systems need to take precautions. These precautions are not much different from the usual advice given to someone battling cancer and undergoing treatment when it comes to limiting exposure to potentially contracting coronavirus the same approach applies.

"We advise them to avoid crowds that are unnecessary," Grethlein said. "We can see that for healthy people a lot of large gatherings are being canceled and patients at higher risk it certainly makes sense to reduce their exposure to travel."

IU Health also has Virtual Visits that helps screen people for the virus in hopes of catching it early.