What Does It Mean to Be Immunocompromised? – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Immunocompromised individuals are potentially at a higher risk for severe illness from the coronavirus, or COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Were here to help here is some general information about what it means to be immunocompromised, and how you can protect yourself.

If you have additional questions regarding either your currentor past treatments, contact your oncologist for more information.

Being immunocompromised means having a weakened immunesystem, which reduces the bodys ability to fight infections and otherdiseases. Cancer patients can become immunocompromised (at least for a periodof time) due to the disease, as a result of treatment they are undergoing, or acombination of both reasons.

As a general guideline, if you have either undergone a stem cell transplant in the last two years (it typically takes 3-12 months, if not longer, for your immune system to recover from your transplant), have chronic graph-versus-host disease (GVHD), or are currently on ongoing, intensive chemotherapy (or a similar potent drug), you are likely immunocompromised.

People who are immunocompromised would have been told this by their oncologist prior to starting treatment, and should be practicing COVID-19 type precautions, according to Joseph H. Antin, MD, chief emeritus of Adult Stem Cell Transplantation at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Womens Cancer Center.

Based on current information available, those at high-riskfor severe illness from COVID-19 include people who are immunocompromised, includingfrom cancer treatment.

Antin encourages all cancer patients, whether they are inactive treatment or not, to adopt more aggressive precautions. It is stillunclear as to what extent (if any) a previous cancer diagnosis increases yourchance of developing severe illness from COVID-19, even if you are no longerimmunocompromised.

Patients who have been told that they are currentlyimmunocompromised should avoid leaving their homes unless it is absolutelyessential and limit their contact with others. In instances where you mustleave your homes (such as for a doctors appointment), you will likely be givenmasks and gloves to wear while youre out. Be sure to change your gloves if youtouch a high traffic item (such as an elevator button or handrail) and washyour hands once you have returned from your destination.

All patients should be in contact with their care teams todetermine if their current care schedule is still appropriate, or if it can betemporarily adjusted.

There are many things you can do to help protect yourself,and those around you, from contracting COVID-19. The best way to preventillness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. It is recommend that you:

If you are caring for or even visiting someone who isimmunocompromised, it is important to also follow these heightened precautions.Remember: Anything you carry can be transferred to the patient. This is whyanyone who will come in contact with an immunocompromised person needs tofollow the same guidelines as someone who is immunocompromised.

Today, it is important to self-quarantine and practicesocial distancing as much as possible. Consider exchanging physicalinteractions with virtual ones; Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or even videoconferencing applications (such as Zoom) can serve as temporary alternatives.

Both patients and their caregivers need to practice self-care for emotional and physical well-being in this challenging time.Read helpful information on coping day-to-day with COVID-19 uncertainty.

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What Does It Mean to Be Immunocompromised? - Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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