Cancer & Coronavirus FAQs

Everyone feels vulnerable right now due to the coronavirus outbreak. But if you’re a cancer patient, survivor, or caregiver, you may feel even more concerned.

We’re here for you. UVA Health has made the necessary decision to not allow visitors to protect our community. But that doesn’t mean you can’t call or visit if needed.

Does having cancer mean I’m more at risk of getting sick from the coronavirus?

Yes. Cancer and cancer treatments both can weaken your immune system. With this lowered immunity, your body will have a harder time fighting the virus. You could potentially become more ill than someone who doesn’t have cancer.

What should I do to prevent getting infected?

Follow the recommended steps for coronavirus prevention.

I've heard about getting a "booster" dose of the COVID vaccine. Am I eligible for this?

The CDC recommends that only people with a weakened immune system get a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. For people who got the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, an additional dose hasn't been authorized.

You might be eligible for a third vaccine dose if you:

  • Are getting active treatment for tumors or blood cancers or were treated in the last year
  • Had an organ transplant and are taking medicine that reduces your immune system
  • Had a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to reduce your immune system
  • Have a moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency condition (such as DiGeorge syndrome or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Have an advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Are being treated with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may reduce your immune system
  • Were treated with medicines that reduce your B-cells at the time you got your COVID vaccination

If you think you're eligible or have questions about getting a third dose of vaccine, talk to your healthcare provider. You can also read the guidance from the CDC for more answers.

Do all people with cancer have the same risk?

No. People with blood cancer, including lymphomas, multiple myeloma, and most types of leukemia, have the most weakened immune systems. You’re also at a high risk of dangerous infection if you’re actively getting intense treatments like: 

  • Chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy
  • Stem cell or bone marrow transplant

I’m a cancer survivor. Should I worry?

If you’ve finished cancer treatments, your immune system has likely recovered. Follow the standard steps for coronavirus prevention.

When I go outside, do I need to take extra steps to stay safe?

Follow the recommended CDC guidelines regarding social distancing. If you are unsure or feel you have a unique circumstance, please talk to your cancer care team about whether you need to take additional precautions.

Will my routine chemotherapy or radiation appointments get cancelled?

No. Routine chemotherapy or radiation treatments are not being cancelled or interrupted at this time. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19, your cancer care team may adjust your care plan to allow you time to recover.

Can I still come in for infusion?

Yes. See our infusion FAQs.

What should I do if I get sick or injured - NOT with coronavirus symptoms - and need immediate medical care? Should I go to the ER? I'm scared of the hospital right now.

Yes. If you’re having an emergency, call 911 or go to the ER for urgent care. If it’s not an emergency, call your care team for guidance.

Will my scheduled stem cell transplant still take place?

For your safety and protection, we'll be testing everyone for COVID-19 72 hours before stem cell treatment. If you have the infection, we'll work with you on next steps.

I had surgery related to my cancer scheduled. Will it be postponed?

No. We’re open and ready to see you. We’ve put rigorous procedures in place to ensure you and your family can be treated safely and effectively.

Can I bring someone with me to my appointments at the Cancer Center or other cancer clinics?

Yes. See the full visitor restrictions for any exceptions.

We can also virtually include a caregiver in the visit. 

Thank you for your help during these challenging times.

I’m feeling so worried and stressed, and all the in-person support groups are cancelled. Where can I find support?

The Cancer Center is offering virtual support groups and classes for cancer patients. See the list of upcoming events.

Free Online Nia & Yoga

Also, cancer patients and caregivers can:

  • Join a free online Nia class for mindful, holistic movement and dance. To register, email Susan Tate.
  • Access free virtual gentle chair yoga classes to reduce anxiety and depression. Great for beginners. For details, contact Sara Yoder.

Can I access any online support for cancer & coronavirus?

Yes. Many organizations have developed resources and created online forums and classes to help during the pandemic. We recommend:

I provide care for someone with cancer. What do I need to do at this time?

You probably feel more stressed than normal. That makes sense. The person you care for has a greater risk of severe infection than most. Make sure to protect yourself from infection. Also: Create a backup plan, should you get sick.

My primary caregiver has begun feeling sick with respiratory symptoms, but I feel fine; what should I do?

If your caregiver is feeling ill, they should self-isolate in a separate room in the home and reach out to their primary care provider for further instructions.

At the same time, you should reach out to your cancer care team for guidance.

How do I protect myself and my caregiver when we need to come to UVA for treatment?

Follow the recommended coronavirus prevention.

What is UVA Health doing in response to the coronavirus pandemic?

We've taken several steps to protect our community. Find out what we're doing