We are grateful for our dedicated and passionate community. As such, we hope you know that the health and wellbeing of our patients, families, volunteers, staff, donors, and partners are our number one priority. COVID-19 is on everyone’s minds, and we are committed to sharing ongoing information, updates, and answers to key questions.
With information from trusted sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cancer.gov, and our very own Medical Scientific Advisory Committee, the Alliance is making timely, informed decisions about events, patient support, and Alliance programs.
Continue to monitor this page and the Alliance Facebook page for up-to-date information.
We encourage you to call our Helpline for ongoing support or with additional questions. Our certified navigators are available to help answer questions and speak with you about any concerns or fears.
Alliance Helpline: (877) 422-2030
Status: Alliance Office & Upcoming Events
LAST UPDATE: 04/30/2020 12:00 pm ET
OFFICE STATUS: All staff teleworking 3/13/20 through 6/30/20. All travel prohibited.
STATUS: Events & deadlines impacted by COVID-19
|Event / Deadline||Date||Current Status||Alliance Activity|
|Inside Anne's Closet||May 18||Event Cancelled||Details on the IAC Event Page|
|2020 Chicago Walk to End Colon Cancer||June 6||In-Person Event Cancelled||Continuing Fundraising Chicago Event Page|
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance is closely monitoring COVID-19. Our priority is the well-being of our caregivers, volunteers, donors, employees, partners, and the patients we serve – especially those with compromised immune systems.
Below are some answers to commonly asked questions. Call our Helpline for ongoing support or with additional questions. Our certified navigators are available to talk you through any concerns or fears.
Alliance Helpline: (877) 422-2030
Are there any current warnings we should be aware of?
Yes. As part of our monitoring we will provide ongoing updates here.
What are the risks associated with COVID-19?
COVID-19 can result in severe disease, including hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, and death, especially among older adults and people with additional underlying medical conditions (see additional risk factors below). Everyone should take critical actions, such as social distancing, to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect vulnerable individuals from these risks.
What impact does COVID-19 have on people with cancer?
People with cancer often have compromised immune systems (often referred to as being immunocompromised). This usually happens due to cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. It’s harder for the body to fight off diseases when the immune system is not strong enough, so it’s extremely important that people with cancer and their family members follow steps to protect themselves.
How do I know if I have a compromised immune system?
Cancer patients who receive radiation or chemotherapy have a weakened immune system (immunocompromised). This happens when radiation and chemotherapy treatments kill not only the cancer cells but also some of the immune system cells, especially white blood cells.
Patients who are immunocompromised are more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections including infection by SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
After treatments end, the immune system can rebuild itself and fully regain a functional immune system. However, this process takes time. Some research suggests that it can take between 2 to 9 months. Patients are most vulnerable right after they receive their treatments.
Speak with your doctor if you have concerns about your risk for COVID-19 being higher as a result of current or past cancer treatment.
What are other risk factors?
Age seems to be a risk factor for severe illness due to COVID-19. Data from other countries suggest that people who are 60 years old or older are more likely to experience severe illness due to COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight out of the ten deaths (80%) in the US since March 16, 2020 occurred among people who are 65 years old or older.
Additional conditions that increase the risk of a severe illness due to COVID-19 include:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease (including lung cancer)
In people who smoke, the recovery of the immune system is even slower.
Patients who had a bone marrow transplant or any other transplant and receive immunosuppressive medications are at extremely high risk for infections.
What symptoms should I watch for?
If you think you developed signs of COVID-19, call your doctor and seek immediate medical attention. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath / Difficulty breathing
- Diarrhea (digestive problems may be an early sign)
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
If you develop any of these urgent warning signs, call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Bluish lips or skin
- Sudden confusion or inability to wake up
What are some general practices I should follow to reduce my risk of getting COVID-19?
- Talk to your doctor about your treatment plan and how it could be modified to reduce your risk of being exposed to COVID19. NEW: Guidelines from The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) for Colorectal Cancer Patients During the COVID 19 Pandemic.
- The American Cancer Society is recommending that no one go to a health care facility for routine cancer screening at this time. If you're due for your colonoscopy or appointment, discuss postponing or the possibility of tele-visits with your medical team. Call our Helpline to discuss other options with our certified navigators..
- If you are currently on treatment, limit your exposure to people and avoid large gatherings.
- The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).
- Focus on improving your immune system through sleep and exercise.
How can I help protect myself and others from COVID-19, the flu, and other viruses?
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds or more with soapy water or, at a minimum, alcohol-based sanitizer (which may be less effective than soap and water).
- In public places, avoid touching common surfaces (doorknobs, elevator keys handrails, etc.) without protection or means to disinfect them first.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who shows cold or flu-like symptoms.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your inner elbow shirtsleeve.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as desks, doorknobs, phones, and handrails.
Where can I turn for financial, employment, and insurance needs that have emerged as a result of the current environment?
Luckily there is support for those currently needing help applying for health insurance, delaying household bills and loan payments, and more. The national opportunities are changing every day. Check out this page for more on new, crisis-related options that are being offered each day and the Alliance’s Support and Financial Services Guide for ongoing resources by state to meet your needs.
Where can I learn more?
Consult your doctor with any concerns about your treatment or overall health. Do not discontinue treatment or doctors’ visits without discussing with your healthcare providers. If you want more information on COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cancer.gov, or Cancer.net.
For more information on colorectal cancer and COVID-19, please read Guidelines from The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) for Colorectal Cancer Patients During the COVID 19 Pandemic.
Information about Screening
During this current health crisis, several organizations are recommending postponing visits to healthcare facilities for routine cancer screenings, such as colonoscopies. However, there are alternative methods for colorectal cancer screening which can be performed in the privacy of your own home without going to see a doctor. Note that if you use an at-home test and receive a positive result, you will require a follow-up physician visit which may be postponed due to COVID-19.
Please visit our screening information page for additional information.
If you are currently experiencing symptoms, such as rectal bleeding, abdominal discomfort, or a change in bowel habits, contact your primary care physician or gastroenterologist (GI doctor). They may be seeing patients using telehealth services (virtual visits).
For any additional questions, please contact our Helpline at 877-422-2030.
Screening saves lives - as soon as restrictions are lifted, it is important to get back on track with routine cancer screenings as soon as possible.
Video: Managing anxiety
Now more than ever, it's important that we remember how to take care of ourselves both mentally and physically. In this video, Danielle Peterson, a clinical social worker and patient navigator with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, discusses the importance of managing mental health during this unprecedented time.