This page has information for people with breast cancer and their families.
For general information on coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
If you have another type of cancer, visit the American Society of Clinical Oncology website for information on coronavirus for people with cancer.
The new coronavirus was first detected in China in late 2019. It causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
Most cases of COVID-19 are mild. However, some cases are severe and can lead to death.
For the latest information on the coronavirus, visit the CDC website.
People who are older or who have other health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, are at greater risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.
If you have breast cancer and are on chemotherapy or immunotherapy, or you have metastatic breast cancer, your immune system may be weakened. This means you have an increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19.
Check the CDC website and your local public health department website for the latest information.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
These symptoms tend to appear 2-14 days after exposure to coronavirus. However, a person may be contagious before symptoms appear.
If you have symptoms, have been in contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have questions about testing for coronavirus, call your doctor.
For more information on the symptoms of COVID-19 and when to seek immediate medical attention for symptoms, visit the CDC website.
To avoid being exposed to coronavirus, the CDC recommends you:
For additional information about coronavirus (COVID-19) for people with cancer, visit the American Society of Clinical Oncology website.
Find more information on cloth face coverings on the CDC website.
Whether or not your surgery is postponed depends on your hospital and surgeon, as well as your state and local guidelines.
Don’t worry if your surgery is postponed. If this happens, your breast cancer treatment may begin with chemotherapy or hormone therapy.
Many people get chemotherapy or hormone therapy before breast surgery. This is called neoadjuvant therapy. If you need chemotherapy, whether you get it before or after surgery doesn’t impact your survival.
Neoadjuvant therapy is usually given to increase surgical options. If you have a large tumor, neoadjuvant therapy may shrink the tumor enough that a lumpectomy becomes an option to a mastectomy.
If your breast cancer surgery is postponed due to the pandemic, you may get neoadjuvant therapy. If you will need chemotherapy after surgery, your doctor may start you on neoadjuvant chemotherapy first and do surgery later . Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is not given to people who don’t need chemotherapy.
Some women with very small estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers who don’t need chemotherapy may get neoadjuvant hormone therapy for 6-12 months . After surgery, hormone therapy will be continued.
Remember, survival is the same whether you get chemotherapy or hormone therapy before or after surgery. And, neoadjuvant therapy may increase the chance you can have a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy.
If you have an aggressive breast cancer, your surgery will not likely be postponed. For example, if you have triple negative breast cancer and have completed neoadjuvant therapy, your surgery will not likely be postponed.
Some breast reconstruction surgeries may be postponed due to limited resources and staff. Whether or not your reconstruction is postponed depends on your hospital, your plastic surgeon and sometimes, the type of reconstruction you’re having .
You can still get breast cancer treatment during stay at home and shelter in place orders. Getting medical care is an essential service.
Some in-person doctor appointments may be changed to phone or video consults.
Some doctors’ offices have made changes to allow for social distancing. For example, they have spread out appointments so only a few people are in the waiting area at the same time.
During this time, some routine appointments like annual mammograms and check-in visits may be postponed.
If you’ve already started radiation therapy, your treatment should continue . However, your treatment plan may be modified to decrease the number of times you have to go to the hospital during this pandemic .
If you haven’t already started radiation therapy, your treatment may be postponed .
For some older women and some women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), survival is the same with or without radiation therapy [1-4]. These women may skip radiation therapy .
Some chemotherapy schedules may be modified . For example, there may be a longer time between your chemotherapy sessions. This will help reduce the number of times you have to go to the hospital.
If you’re getting a HER2-targeted therapy (such as trastuzumab (Herceptin)) through an IV or a nurse-administered injection, your treatment may be modified .
For example, you may have a longer time interval between treatments. This will help reduce the number of times you have to go to the hospital.
If you’re taking tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor for early breast cancer, your treatment will continue as usual.
Many clinical trials for breast cancer treatment are ongoing. If you’re in a clinical trial, there may be some changes to reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19. For example, you may have fewer in-person doctor visits.
Hospitals may have limited staff and resources during this pandemic. So, individual hospitals made decisions about the clinical trials they conduct. Some hospitals temporarily put enrollment of new participants in clinical trials on hold.
If you have metastatic breast cancer and have exhausted treatment options, including clinical trials, you may be able to try an investigational drug through the FDA’s Expanded Access program. This is also known as compassionate use. Learn more about this program.
If imaging (MRI, PET scan or other imaging) related to a possible breast cancer diagnosis or related to your breast cancer is postponed and you have concerns, call your doctor.
Routine breast cancer screening may be postponed during this pandemic (see below).
Many places are limiting the number people you can bring with you to a doctor's appointment. This is to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Call your doctor or hospital, or check the website for their current policies. Don’t bring someone with you who has a fever or cough.
If you have a fever, cough or other symptoms, let your doctor know before you go to your appointment.
Many people are out of work or facing other financial hardship during this pandemic.
Komen Treatment Assistance Program
Susan G. Komen® offers the Komen Treatment Assistance Program to eligible, underserved individuals who are actively undergoing breast cancer treatment.
With this program, we aim to help those who are facing financial challenges by providing: limited financial assistance, breast cancer education, psychosocial support and information about local resources.
Funding helps women and men of any age who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, at any stage of the disease. Financial assistance is granted to those who meet pre-determined eligibility criteria. To learn more about this program and other helpful resources, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636).
Other organizations may offer financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, CancerCare has financial assistance for people undergoing cancer treatment who are affected by COVID-19. Call 800-813-4673 or visit www.cancercare.org/coronavirus to learn more.
Find information on how to maintain health insurance coverage after a job loss.
Find more financial assistance resources.
Due to limits on resources and staff and to minimize exposure to COVID-19, many hospitals and imaging centers postponed screening mammograms for some women. Now, many places have begun offering screening mammograms again. If you’re due for a screening, call to make an appointment.
Hospitals and imaging centers are taking many precautions to ensure patients are safe. Many places have made changes to allow for social distancing. For example, they have spread out appointments so only a few people are in the waiting area at the same time.
If you’re at average risk and have no signs of breast cancer and have had a mammogram in the past year or so, don’t worry if your mammogram is postponed for a short period of time. You should be able to reschedule your mammogram soon.
Study findings show for women 50-74, the benefits of mammography screening every year are similar to the benefits of mammography screening every 2 years . In fact, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends mammography screening every 2 years for women ages 50-74 . The American Cancer Society recommends mammography every 2 years for women, starting at 55 .
However, if you have any warning signs of breast cancer of breast cancer or notice any changes in your breast or underarm area, call your doctor.
Read Komen’s position on breast cancer screening as communities begin to re-open.
If you have questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) and breast cancer, visit the American Society of Clinical Oncology website.
If you have any warning signs of breast cancer or notice any changes in your breast or underarm area, don’t put off seeing your doctor. A breast lump or other change needs to be checked.
It’s OK to go see your doctor, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals and doctor offices are taking many precautions to ensure patients are safe.
Hospitals are not postponing follow-up tests for people with signs or symptoms of breast cancer. These tests are considered urgent.
Learn more about warning signs of breast cancer.
Learn more about what to do if you find a lump.
Learn about follow-up tests and diagnosis.
This is a stressful time. To reduce stress, the CDC recommends:
Susan G. Komen®’s Breast Care Helpline:1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636)
Our Breast Care Helpline can provide information, social support and help with coping strategies related to anxiety or concerns during these uncertain times. Calls to the helpline are answered by a trained and caring staff member in English or Spanish, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET. You can also email the helpline at email@example.com.
This is a hard time for everyone. Many breast cancer organizations are offering social support services online and by telephone.
If you’re feeling scared or alone, or just need to talk, please reach out to Komen by calling our Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636). Our trained and caring helpline staff can provide information, social support and help with coping strategies related to anxiety or concerns during these uncertain times.
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Posted July 17, 2020
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