COVID-19 FAQs for Cancer Patients

COVID-19 FAQs for Cancer Patients

While the COVID-19 pandemic has created some unique challenges, we continue to be committed to providing our patients with the very best cancer care while taking necessary precautions to protect our patients and team members. As the Cancer Institute leadership continues to respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis, we would like to answer some FAQs for cancer patients. The guidance and restrictions in these frequently asked questions are subject to change based on local or regional COVID-19 specific disease rates and CDC recommendations.

For information about UT Medical Center’s response to COVID-19, please visit COVID-19 Information and Resources.

This is a challenging time for everyone, and we ask you and thank you for your understanding and your compliance with changes we have implemented to ensure the safety of our patients, their loved ones, and our team members.

COVID-19 Testing for New Chemotherapy/Immunotherapy Patients

The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends testing patients for COVID-19 before starting any treatment that may decrease your ability to fight off infections. All new chemotherapy/immunotherapy patients in the Cancer Institute will be tested for COVID-19 up to 14 days before starting therapy. Patients will only be notified if the result is positive. If you are a patient and have any questions, please discuss with your physician.

FAQs for Cancer Patients

If I have cancer, what can I do to protect myself from COVID-19?

For your protection and safety, UT Medical Center Cancer Institute is making the following recommendations to limit your exposure to and risk of COVID 19:

  • Avoid crowds and activities where taking protective measures may be difficult, such as activities where social distancing can’t be maintained or others won’t be wearing masks. In general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them and the longer that interaction, the higher your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. The CDC has specific guidance for people with certain medical conditions and precautions they should take to lessen the risk of getting COVID-19.
  • Limit your travel. Because travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, and cancer patients are more likely to get infections because of their weakened immune system, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick. If you are considering traveling, please visit the CDC’s Considerations for Travelers.
  • Stay away from people who are showing signs and symptoms consistent with COVID-19, like fever of 100.0 or greater, cough or difficulty breathing.
  • Wear a facial covering when in public places or when you can’t maintain six feet of social distancing from others.
  • Wash your hands (for at least 20 seconds) or use hand sanitizer (contains at least 60 percent alcohol) frequently.
  • Do not touch your face (eyes, nose, and mouth) unless you have just washed your hands or used hand sanitizer.
  • Limit visits to church (worship online, if possible), grocery store (consider ordering your groceries online), retail stores (go early or late when crowds are less), school/sporting events (don’t attend or sit six feet away from others), etc.
  • Consider finding someone that can run errands for you (grocery shopping, etc.) or look for stores offering curbside pick-up.

What should I do if I am a cancer patient and start to experience COVID-19 symptoms?

If you are taking cancer treatment, CALL your oncologist’s office if you have a fever of 100.0 or greater, cough, difficulty breathing or a loss of sense of smell or taste.

If you have completed your cancer treatment, call your primary care physician if you have any of the above symptoms.

Do NOT go to your physician’s office before calling if you have any of these symptoms. Call 911 in an emergency.

Should I still come in for my appointment in the Cancer Institute?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or were exposed to someone infected with the virus, you should call your physician’s office before coming to the Cancer Institute. The health care team will assist you in determining the next steps.

If you are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you should keep your appointment with your physician unless told otherwise by your health care team. We are offering telehealth or telephone appointments, which make it easy to access care by using your smartphone, tablet or computer. Please call you physician’s office to see if a telehealth appointment is appropriate for your care. Please be aware that due to special COVID-19 related legislation, this alternative form of an office visit will be billed the same as an in-office visit. Learn more about telehealth.

How is the Cancer Institute screening for COVID-19?

All patients, visitors and team members who enter the Cancer Institute and at all other entrances to UT Medical Center are screened. At the entrance to the Cancer Institute, all patients and approved visitors must stop at the screening station before continuing into the building. Everyone will have their temperature taken and will be asked a series of screening questions that help our team identify those who may be experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 or those who may have been tested for or exposed to COVID-19. All team members also have temperatures taken daily at the beginning of their shift.

Are there any restrictions that will affect my appointment or who can come with me to my appointment?

Everyone entering the hospital and any Medical Office Building both on and off campus must wear a cloth facial covering or mask. Face coverings can include scarves, bandannas and homemade cloth face masks, as long as they cover both your nose and mouth.

The Cancer Institute has implemented the following visitor restrictions in an effort to keep our patients, their loved ones, and our team members as safe as possible:

  • Each patient may have one designated visitor (age 16 and older) for their appointment.
  • For the protection and safety of our immunocompromised patients, currently PATIENTS ONLY are allowed in the Cancer Institute’s Chemotherapy Infusion Center on the fourth floor and in the Radiation Oncology Treatment Area on the first floor. If a patient brings a visitor with them, they will need to remain in the car or sit in a waiting room.

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation. Find out more about Visitor Restrictions.

Can I still get my chemotherapy if I am feeling well?

At this time, there is no evidence to support changing or withholding chemotherapy or immunotherapy in patients with cancer. The balance of potential harms from delaying therapy versus the potential benefits from possibly preventing a COVID-19 infection is very uncertain. There is no evidence to suggest that people with cancer are more likely to get a COVID-19 infection compared to the general population. A preliminary report indicates that patients with cancer may have a higher incidence of severe events compared to other people infected with COVID-19. At this time, oncologists continue to treat cancer patients with chemotherapy as long as they are feeling well with no symptoms of an active infection. The decision to treat cancer with chemotherapy is an important one and should be made only after consultation with your oncologist.

Will I be able to have my cancer operation?

Currently, all cancer-related surgery is moving forward as scheduled by your health care team.

What are UT Medical Center and the Cancer Institute doing to keep facilities clean and safe?

The UT Medical Center Environmental Services team is trained and prepared in this battle against COVID-19 and making sure that our facilities meet the highest standards of cleanliness and sanitation every single day. For more information on how we’re protecting patients, visitors and team members, visit Together Safe.

Contact Info
Cancer Institute
1926 Alcoa Highway
Medical Building F
Knoxville, Tennessee 37920

Monday-Friday, 8 am-4:30 pm

Additional Resources

For more information about local, state and federal resources (including the CDC), visit Government Resources.

For more information about COVID-19 for cancer patients, visit these websites:

A woman uses a laptop on a white table
Contact Info
Cancer Institute
1926 Alcoa Highway
Medical Building F
Knoxville, Tennessee 37920

Monday-Friday, 8 am-4:30 pm


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