COVID-19 & Lung Cancer

If I am in active treatment for lung cancer, am I more susceptible to contracting COVID-19?

Concerns about becoming sick from infections are higher when a patient is on chemotherapy, particularly as it relates to your body’s ability to mount an immune response to fight certain infections and the reserves that your body has to fight an infection. This is not different for COVID-19 in general terms, but it’s important to note that we do not know how treatment might interact with COVID-19 specifically. In short, if your treatment is immunosuppressive, this is likely a risk factor to experience serious illness should you contract COVID-19.

I have had lung surgery for my cancer. Will COVID-19 affect me differently now?

The patients who have gotten most ill from COVID-19 are those who have had existing chronic issues, including respiratory issues. Relatively recent surgery from which you are still recovering may mean that you are at greater risk for becoming sicker as a result of COVID-19. Similarly, chronic respiratory issues from surgery may mean that you are at greater risk for becoming sicker as a result of COVID-19. Also, a history of surgery may mean you have less pulmonary reserve (the maximum amount of air your lungs can inhale) in case of an infection.

If I have had immunotherapy or am currently undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer, should I be worried?

We don’t know for sure. Everyone needs to be cautious at this time, regardless of medical history. Cancer patients should take extra precautions, as we aren’t sure how specific types of therapy may affect risk.

I had radiation therapy last year. Now I am not undergoing any treatment. Should I be worried?

Though we don’t know for sure the impact of radiation therapy on COVID-19 infections, radiation may cause scarring in the lungs and decrease lung function. Everyone needs to be cautious at this time, regardless of medical history. Cancer patients should take extra precautions, as we aren’t sure how specific types of therapy may modulate risk.

Should I still go to my appointments for treatment and/or consultation?

Remember the situation is fluid and cancer care teams are working to try to find a way to ensure that patient care is maintained. There are still many unknowns. Here are some tips:

  • Find out if your appointment is still scheduled, as some appointments are being cancelled or changed.
  • If it is rescheduled, ask if it is possible to have a telephone or video appointment.
  • If you are nervous about travelling to, or going into a cancer centre, ask if there is an option to have a phone or video appointment.
  • If your treatment is delayed and you feel that you have been placed in a lower "category" or priority, you may ask to have the decision reviewed.

I am on a clinical trial and need to travel. Is this OK?

It’s best to speak with your doctor and study team about your particular travel plans and what risks there might be, relating to both your health and the logistics.

How can lung cancer patients protect themselves?

Lung cancer patients can protect themselves by following local, provincial and federal government guidelines on preventing transmission of the virus. This includes PDF iconwashing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, or after touching surfaces in a public place. To the extent possible, stay home and if it is absolutely necessary to go out, use social distancing/physical distancing measures to stay at least 2 metres (6 feet) apart from other people and avoid crowds and close contact. PDF iconWash your hands thoroughly upon returning home.

Remember that your medical team is there to help you, so please talk to them should you have any questions about your care. As well check the Canadian Cancer Society webpage www.cancer.ca for more information.

Where do I find up-to-date information about COVID-19? 

NATIONAL - Canadian Government   

ALBERTA - Alberta Health Services , Alberta Government

Page Last Updated: 03/04/2020