Cancer and COVID-19

Christer Sundqvist

In December 2019, an outbreak of a novel corona virus (COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2) was reported initially in Wuhan state, Hubei province of China. The virus has since then spread all over the world and WHO has declared a pandemic spread worldwide.


Typically COVID-19 comes with high fever accompanied by respiratory abnormalities like coughing and shortening of breath. Older age patients are also more susceptible to this disease. Patients with cancer are at high risk from this pandemic. The higher release of  immunosuppressive cytokines in cancer patients suppresses the leukocyte population meaning that cancer patients become more prone to the COVID-19.


The scientific literature indicates that COVID-19 is more prevalent in patients with compromised immune systems. In this pandemic, patients with cancer should be treated as special cases. Risk management is highly needed in the critical time of this pandemic. The mental stress from cancer is probably intensified when the cancer patient acquires COVID-19. Some promising complementary treatments (vitamins C and D, herbal medicines, acupuncture) have to wait for approval by health authorities.

The scarcity of research data is a big problem. We have found some fragmentary recommendations for the cancer patient with COVID-19. Patients who are taking active treatment should consult their physician and discuss a delay of immunosuppressive therapy in this ongoing pandemic. Avoiding human to human transmission of COVID-19 is extremely important. None of the complementary strategies are adequate by itself, but in combination with thoroughly planned conventional treatment, these can help to provide safer care to patients with cancer in this era of COVID-19. We will continue following the situation.

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