Published on August 14, 2020
Should Follicular Lympoma Treatment Continue During the Coronavirus Outbreak?
Dr. John Leonard, Weill Cornell Cancer Center, joins Patient Power host and advocate, Ruth Fein, to discuss the safety of entering cancer centers to receive treatment for follicular lymphoma. They discuss the protocols in place to keep treatment centers clean and safe for visitors. Watch to hear the full interview.
This is Part 4 of a 4-part segment on Follicular Lymphoma. Watch the full discussion in the series below:
Transcript | Follicular Lymphoma Treatment During COVID-19
Hi, thanks for joining us. I'm Ruth Fein. I'm a patient advocate, a health writer, and also a living well patient diagnosed with a rare blood cancer more than 25 years ago. We're here with Dr. John Leonard of Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, to talk about follicular lymphoma and COVID-19. Dr. Leonard is a world-renowned expert in non-Hodgkin follicular lymphoma. And thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us today.
Thank you. Pleasure to be here.
We know that COVID-19 is really on everyone's mind. So I wanted to ask you, what has your COVID experience been with for follicular lymphoma patients? Your insight on this is so telling since you practiced throughout the pandemic’s initial epicenter in New York City.
Our clinic like most are ready to treat patients. We're taking precautions. We have whatever people need to really provide the service they need, the treatment they need. And it's really important if you're a cancer patient and you need therapy, don't be afraid to reach out to your team. Don't be afraid to get the care that you need. We don't want people to have a bad outcome from their cancer because they were delaying or not getting the cancer care that they needed during that period of time.
Yeah, that's really helpful and a good reminder. Did you find that patients appear to be at greater risk for contracting the virus?
So that is an interesting question as to what the risk is. And it's a hard question to answer. There are some studies, various centers around the world have tried to say, "Well, how did our patients with COVID do versus our patients who had cancer with COVID, lymphoma with COVID, et cetera?" to see that. You would generally think that a group of patients with a cancer or blood cancer who have an immune-compromised, or immune-suppressed state due to their disease, due to their treatment, would be more susceptible, would be more likely to have a difficult or a challenging time. And I think that's the assumption that I would operate under. I don't know that we know for sure that patients with, in this case lymphoma, do worse if they were to get COVID. But I think I wouldn't want them to get COVID. In some ways I wouldn't want to find out. I think that patients should assume.
What I tell patients is that a lymphoma patient, even if they've had no treatment and have been healthy and are on watch and wait, you have to assume that your immune system is a 9 out of 10. So it's not perfect, but it's not horrible either. That being said, there are patients because of their disease or because of chemotherapy or other treatments that suppress the immune system, that clearly are going to be at greater risk. That being said, patients with blood cancers and other cancers are used to taking precautions. They are used to having to sometimes wear a mask or try to avoid sick people because they've been through periods. And so one might argue that because they know what to do and are accepting of it, they may be in better shape, assuming they followed the plan, so to speak, and follow instructions.
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