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:
Other symptoms include runny nose/nasal congestion, muscle aches and sudden loss of smell or taste.
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 or have been in contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19, 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.
Hospitals have limited resources and staff. This is causing some surgeries and other procedures to be postponed. You may hear the term “elective surgery.” This doesn’t mean your surgery isn’t important. It just means it’s not urgent or life-threatening.
If you’re newly diagnosed with breast cancer, your breast surgery may be postponed. Your treatment may begin with chemotherapy or hormone therapy instead of surgery.
Many people already get chemotherapy or hormone therapy before breast surgery. This is called neoadjuvant therapy. If you will need chemotherapy for your treatment, 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.
Because surgeries are being delayed, more people may be getting 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 being 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 delayed. 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 are being 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 your breast cancer treatment during stay at home and shelter in place orders. Getting medical care is an essential service.
Some in-person doctor appointments are being changed to phone or video consults.
Some doctors’ offices are making changes to allow for social distancing. For example, they may spread out appointments so fewer people are in the waiting area at the same time. This may cause a doctor’s appointment to be changed to a different day or time.
During this crisis, 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 sessions you have to go to during this crisis .
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 are being 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.
If you have metastatic breast cancer and take hormone therapy along with a CDK4/6 inhibitor, mTOR inhibitor or PIK3CA inhibitor, your treatment may be modified . This will help lower the risk of side effects that may require you to visit your doctor or medical center.
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 have limited staff and resources during this crisis. So, individual hospitals must make decisions about the clinical trials they conduct. For example, some hospitals are putting enrollment of new participants in clinical trials on hold.
If imaging (MRI, PET scan or other imaging) related to a possible breast cancer diagnosis or related to your breast cancer is canceled and you have concerns, call your doctor.
Routine breast cancer screening is being postponed during this crisis (see below).
Many hospitals now limit the number people you can bring with you to a doctor's appointment to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Call your hospital or check the website for the 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.
Due to limits on resources and staff and to minimize exposure to COVID-19, your hospital or imaging center may postpone screening mammograms for some women. If you’re at average risk and have no signs of breast cancer and have had a mammogram in the past year or so, your mammogram may be postponed. Don't worry if this happens to you.
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 or notice any changes in your breast or underarm area, call your doctor.
Read Komen’s position on breast cancer screening during this crisis.
If you have questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) and breast cancer, visit the American Society of Clinical Oncology website.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES
Find more support resources.
Many people are out of work or facing other financial hardship during this crisis.
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).
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 more financial assistance resources.
Posted April 27, 2020
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