People with cancer may be more prone to getting COVID-19 and other diseases. Chemotherapy weakens the immune system, so the body does not offer protection against bacteria and viruses.
COVID-19 is a disease that a person may develop when contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The
However, people who develop chest pain, shortness of breath, or confusion may need immediate medical care.
This article discusses how chemotherapy affects COVID-19. It also explains that people receiving chemotherapy may be at a higher risk of developing the virus. Finally, it states what to do if a person receives a positive COVID-19 test during treatment and how to help prevent the disease.
All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on COVID-19.
Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that kills or shrinks cancer cells, but it can also affect healthy cells. It can cause short-term or long-term side effects, which may
Chemotherapy medications weaken the immune system, so the body has a more difficult time fighting infections.
Sometimes, infections may lead to sepsis. This is a life threatening response that the body produces when a person has an infection. It can cause:
- increased heart rate
- shortness of breath
Sepsis is more likely to occur in those with cancer, lung disease, and a weakened immune system.
The Sepsis Alliance states that COVID-19 can progress to pneumonia and then to viral sepsis.
People who have cancer may have an increased risk of developing serious symptoms from COVID-19, according to the
This may also depend on the medications a person is taking, their age, and cancer severity, among other factors. The
Additionally, COVID-19 vaccinations may not be as effective if someone has blood cancer, as their immune system function reduces.
- breathing problems
- chest pressure
- skin discoloration
The NCI recommends that people undergo testing for COVID-19 if they have symptoms of an infection, such as:
- muscle cramps
- a loss of smell or taste
If they have a positive result, they may need to stay indoors to avoid spreading the infection. They may also call their doctor to inform them about the test and ask about their cancer treatment.
Cancer medications may interact with COVID-19 treatment. The individual may have to stop cancer treatment temporarily while receiving treatment for COVID-19 symptoms.
Research mentions different medications for people who have cancer and have developed COVID-19:
- Remdesivir: This is an antiviral medication that a person receives intravenously. It is suitable for people who are receiving treatment in the hospital.
- Steroids: These are medications that doctors recommend for individuals receiving hospital care but require oxygen supplementation.
- Molnupiravir and Paxlovid: These are antiviral drugs that are available in pill form for people who do not require hospital care.
- getting vaccinated
- wearing a fitted mask indoors
- opening windows when staying indoors
- washing hands with soap and water and using alcohol-based hand rubs
- staying home when feeling unwell
- keeping a minimum 1-meter distance from others if they do not feel well
The following are some questions people frequently ask about chemotherapy and COVID-19.
Does chemotherapy stop if you have COVID-19?
When a person has cancer or COVID-19, doctors may have to stop treatment and prescribe new medications that target COVID-19 symptoms. The type of medications depends on if people are receiving cancer treatment in the hospital or at home.
Does COVID-19 kill people with cancer?
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that destroys cancer cells. It causes a decrease in the number of white blood cells,
White blood cells form part of the immune system that fights foreign cells, such as bacteria and viruses.
The researchers behind
Sometimes, people may face a life threatening situation and need immediate medical treatment.
Chemotherapy may make individuals more prone to developing infections. It reduces the number of white blood cells, which can weaken immune system function.
People who have cancer and receive a positive COVID-19 test may contact their doctor to discuss the next steps for their treatment.
Individuals may consider wearing a mask when they are indoors, covering their mouth when coughing, and getting vaccinated to reduce the chance of spreading the infection.