Coronavirus (COVID-19) and breast cancer
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.
What is coronavirus?
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.
Am I at risk of getting coronavirus?
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.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- New loss of taste or smell
- Nausea or vomiting
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, have been in contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have questions about testing for coronavirus, 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.
What can I do to protect myself and my family?
To avoid being exposed to coronavirus, the CDC recommends you:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after being in a public place and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
- Stay home as much as possible.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Keep space between yourself and others outside of your home.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wear a cloth face cover when you go out in public (for example, to the grocery store). This is to protect other people in case you are infected. Do NOT put a face cover on young children or anyone who can’t remove it without help (for example, someone who has trouble breathing or is incapacitated in some way). Don’t use a face mask meant for a health care worker.
- Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough with your elbow or sleeve. Sneeze into a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
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.
Holiday plans and small gatherings
The holidays are usually a time to gather with family and friends. However, small gatherings, especially inside, are one reason the COVID-19 pandemic is getting worse.
This year, to lower the risk of coronavirus spread, the CDC recommends celebrating in-person only with those who live in your home, and getting together virtually (over the phone or computer) with family and friends who don’t live with you.
If you have a weakened immune system from breast cancer treatment (which puts you at an increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19), the CDC recommends avoiding in-person gatherings with people who don’t live in your home.
Rates of COVID-19 are not the same in everywhere, so local and state government safety guidelines vary and can change often. Check your local and state government websites for the latest information on size restrictions for gatherings and other safety guidelines.
What can I do to reduce stress?
This is a stressful time. To reduce stress, the CDC recommends:
- Taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories about coronavirus, including social media.
- Taking care of yourself. Try taking deep breaths, stretching or meditating. Try to eat healthy meals, get some exercise, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Making time to do things you enjoy, such as taking a walk, gardening, knitting, reading a book or cooking.
- Talking with others about your concerns and how you’re feeling. Call, FaceTime or Skype with family and friends.
Susan G. Komen®’s Breast Care Helpline:
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.
Where can I find social support during this pandemic?
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.
- Dietz JR, Moran MS, Isakoff SJ, et al. Recommendations for prioritization, treatment, and triage of breast cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. the COVID-19 pandemic breast cancer consortium. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 181(3):487-497, 2020.
- Correa C, McGale P, Taylor C, Wang Y, et al. for the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group (EBCTCG). Overview of the randomized trials of radiotherapy in ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast. J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 2010(41):162-77, 2010.
- Goodwin A, Parker S, Ghersi D, Wilcken N. Post-operative radiotherapy for ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 11:CD000563, 2013.
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). NCCN Clinical practice guidelines in oncology: Breast cancer V.4.2020. http://www.nccn.org/, 2020.
- Siu AL on behalf of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for breast cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 164(4):279-96, 2016.
- American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society recommendations for the early detection of breast cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/american-cancer-society-recommendations-for-the-early-detection-of-breast-cancer.html, 2020.
Posted August 11, 2020