Cancer patients are more vulnerable to Covid-19 which leads to high morbidity and mortality in them. According to an ICMR report and the Bengaluru-based National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research, in India, the total number of cancer cases in men is estimated to be 6,79,421 in 2020 and may reach 7,63,575 in 2025. Among women, the total number of incidence cases is estimated to be 7,12,758 in 2020 and likely to reach 8,06,218 in 2025. Breast cancer (2,38,908) is expected to be the most common site of cancer in 2025, followed by cancer in the lung (1,11,328) and mouth (90,060).
Unawareness, late presentation, and lack of timely treatment have made cancer the most dreaded disease. Many cancer patients are also avoiding treatment during pandemic, experts point out.
“Cancer tends to depress the body’s immune system, and more cancer patients are older which is a risk factor for Covid. Since Covid-19 can attack the lungs and invite acute respiratory failure, people with lung cancer are at an increased risk of contracting Covid infection, as their lung function is already compromised. Not only this, some advanced cancers impact organ function, such as lung or kidney function. With reduced organ function, people find it difficult to fight Covid infection,” he said.
Why taking the vaccine is necessary?
Addressing fears around taking the jab, Dr Tanveer Abdul Majeed, surgical oncologist at Zen Multispeciality Hospital said, “There is a lot of fear in the minds of cancer patients about the corona vaccine. But the vaccines are very safe. Therefore, vaccination should be done on time without fear.”
Most experts recommend vaccination as the vaccine is safe for use, even if the expected protection rate in cancer patients may be lower than the general population, added Dr Agre.
The doctors also pointed out that along with the shots, Covid-appropriate behaviour must be followed.
“Wash hands regularly or use a hand sanitiser, avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth. Maintain a safe distance and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Don’t go to crowded places and don’t be around sick people. Be in touch with your doctor via teleconsultation and step out only for hospital visits but ensure proper care. Stay active at home and do low-impact exercises like walking or aerobics, as per the doctor’s suggestion. Eat home-cooked food that includes all the essential nutrients, and avoid junk, oily, spicy, processed, and canned foods. Do not drink alcohol or smoke, and get a sound sleep at night to stay stress-free,” said Dr Agre.