Published on July 29, 2020
How Can Hodgkin Lymphoma Survivors Stay Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic?
Lymphoma expert Dr. Ian Flinn, director of Lymphoma Research at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute gives advice for Hodgkin lymphoma patients on staying safe during the pandemic. Are Hodgkin lymphoma patients safe to go out if they wear masks? What about going into the hospital for treatment? He also discusses safety concerns about COVID-19 exposure at hospitals and why patients shouldn't delay care. Watch the full interview with host Ruth Fein.
Transcript | Hodgkin Lymphoma and Coronavirus: Safety Tips
Hi. I'm Ruth Fein, a patient advocate for Patient Power and also a freelance health writer living in upstate New York. I'm here with Dr. Ian Flinn, who's the Director of Lymphoma Research at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville. So again, thanks for joining us Dr. Flinn. We're here to dig a little deeper into living with Hodgkin lymphoma in this crazy year of pandemic life. How are you telling your patients to go about life?
My mantra is I'm not a patient, I'm me, and I go about my life as me and I travel three and a half hours to see my doctor. Sometimes it's two weeks, sometimes it's every three weeks. What are you telling your patients? How can they continue to live their lives in the middle of not just their disease progression, but in the middle of a COVID pandemic, and should they be wearing masks? Can they go to a restaurant? You know, can they go to a restaurant just wear a mask, or what do you feel comfortable?
I think that it's a very dynamic situation. It's changing all the time. So what's was true two weeks ago may not be true today. Because it's in our part of the world there's a significant up take in the number of patients and the number of people that are coming down with COVID. So I think that's one thing to keep in mind, what's happening in your local area.
I have this conversation every day with patients. This is obviously the foremost on their mind about what they should be doing. The easiest thing for me to do is to tell them that they need to live in a bubble. You can't do anything. But that's not, as you just pointed out, that's really not realistic.
I do think that the number of times - it's a matter of statistics. So the number of people that you come encounter with is going to dramatically change your risk of getting COVID-19. So try to minimize your interactions with other people. Frankly, this is the same thing that I do in my own life and my family does, and I think all of us are minimizing the number of people that we come into contact with.
So you've heard from two patients about what they're doing. I think most of that was pretty good advice. They're wearing masks. They're not going out to dinner. They're not going out to these things. They're getting takeout instead or bringing it in or cooking at home. That's the thing to do.
If you had to go out, then I would definitely, I would not eat indoors. I would try to eat out on a patio someplace and that kind of thing rather than in a confined space. But all the other things that you hear about, washing your hands using, using masks, all that is really, really important. It's what everyone should do.
What procedures do you feel right now can move forward? Obviously that's an individual decision, but what can be on hold and what do you think really shouldn't be?
I think that first of all, I want to say there's a great concern for many people about going to healthcare facilities. I think they're like Fort Knox right now. I'm not sure that there isn't a safer place in the world to be then at a hospital. The nosocomial transmission, that's a name for in-hospital acquisition of COVID, is really, really, really low. You're probably at much greater risk of going into the supermarket than you are going into a healthcare facility.
So people shouldn't be afraid to see their doctor, and we've heard many instances of where delay in healthcare has led to bad outcomes for people. But having a STEM cell transplant or having chemotherapy is a curative therapy, and that really should not be delayed and people should not hesitate to do it.
I think what some institutions and some patients, reasonably, and some doctors are doing is saying, "Well we do these surveillance scans afterwards or there's some surveillance. Maybe we can cut back on how often we do that." So it might vary depending how far out you are from treatment.
So if someone's been out a couple of years, maybe they don't need to come in so much or maybe we can do a telemedicine visit to figure that out rather than having a patient travel and expose himself both at the scan center and laboratories as well as the office. That's the kind of stuff you want to have a conversation with your doctor about, how much that really needs to be done or can we delay some of that. But the active therapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma, everyone, it's almost always a potentially curative option for patients. So I would suggest that people not delay any of that care.
That's really important insight. As you know, with so many conditions there are people in rural areas, there are people all over the country who don't necessarily see a specialist as often as we all might like to. Tele-visit has been amazing for me and I know it would be for others.
But if you're not seeing a specialist who has a lot of expertise in this area, I can imagine they might have a different opinion about what to hold off on and what not to. So that's really valuable. Thanks so much for your time, Dr. Flinn. Thanks to Patient Power, and I'll leave you with the reminder that knowledge can be the best medicine of all and stay safe and well and take care.
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