Treating cancer patients is changing during COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 4:50 PM CDT
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For Avera, their doctors' ability to treat patients with cancer has not changed, but the way they treat their patients and even more so, how to keep them safer has changed.

"So the fact that I have cancer and the fact that I'm on oral chemo, those two things put me at a slightly higher risk, Brian Wells said. He's a cancer patient at Avera.

Dr. Solomon is currently treating Brian Wells for his cancer. He says they’ve changed how they deliver their care by ramping up their telehealth efforts and virtual visits.

"So we've had to beef up those efforts, even beyond what we normally have done," Solomon said. But within our cancer center, we are all up and running doing that. It's allowing us to help patients to continue to receive the care they need for their cancer, but at the same time socially distance as much as possible."

Like many patients receiving treatment, Brian still has to go in for certain things, like blood work. But the virtual visits have helped reduce time in public.

"We can do virtual visits potentially the day before, and then when they come in for their treatment, all they need to do is go straight to their treatment. It minimized time spent in the building and potential interactions that might lead to risk," Solomon said.

"With this visit gave blood work protected me protected him," Wells said.

Changes like these aren't always ideal while receiving treatment, but Brian has found the precautions reassuring.

“Well, actually instead of being apprehensive, I was relieved and comforted," Wells said. "You know, it shows they are managing and taking care of the situation.”

Though getting the virus is a major concern for Brian... it's only part of it.

"The second part, if I do get COVID-19, what happens? You know, how sick do I get? I think that's that pathogenesis question that we all have where we don't know what's gonna happen if we do get sick. So, that's the scariest part."

"We really feel for our patients who are going through this time and having to sort through things in a different way because emotionally it’s very hard to deal with,” Solomon said.

Dr. Solomon also wants to remind the general public that we can help keep people safe through the small things; social distancing and basic hand washing.

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