If you are currently being tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, this is also done for patients* with cancer with a PCR test via throat or nasal swabs. In the swabbed secretion, the genetic material of the virus is detected or not. It is important to know that PCR tests are very sensitive and thus the error rate is very high.
When should I have a PCR test as a cancer patient?
You should have a test done if you have the following symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of the sense of taste and smell
However, since all cancer therapies have a variety of side effects, a classic process of elimination is not useful here. Especially in the case of cancer It is best to contact your attending physician and not go straight to a testing center or doctor’s office, as the risk of infection is particularly high here.
Which cancer patients are most at risk from coronavirus?
Not all cancer patients belong to the risk group. As a cancer patient, you are often particularly at risk from the disease itself if you have acute leukemia, lymphoma, or a tumor that is spreading to the bone marrow. Then the disease is accompanied by low white blood cells and antibodies, which weakens your body’s defenses against viruses.
But also all patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy should be very careful, because their immune system is weakened by the treatment. this concerns in the first place:
- Chemotherapy with cytostatic drugs: These agents counteract the rapid growth of tumor cells, but they also target healthy cells. In addition to hair and skin cells, they also include the blood-forming cells in bone marrow.
- Chemotherapies with antibodies: Antibodies are defense substances that are formed by the immune system and can also be produced artificially. As in the therapy with cytostatic drugs, they are also directed against defense-strong healthy cells.
- Treatments with high-dose cortisone: In parallel with chemotherapy, many patients also receive cortisone-containing drugs that keep the likelihood of inflammation as a result of treatment as low as possible. Taken over a long period of time, however, these drugs weaken the patient’s immune system.
- Treatments with methotrexate, which first prevents cell proliferation as is desired in the treatment of leukemia. However, it also stops the immune cells.
- In stem cell transplants, patients also receive drugs that inhibit the immune system.
- Radiation therapies that affect the bone marrow: Here it often happens that the formation of white blood cells is impaired, which are normally responsible for the defense against pathogens. Because their number in the body is reduced, the natural protective shield works only very limited.
- Drugs used in targeted cancer therapy are designed to inhibit tumor growth. However, they also inhibit the immune system.
PCR test for cancer – What happens if the result is positive??
You will certainly find out the test result of your PCR test from your treating physician. If this is not the case, you should contact him immediately in writing or by telephone. Because every patient and every cancer are different. In close coordination with your attending physician, you will then be hospitalized or receive very close care. If you can’t reach him quickly, you can also call the team at Witzleben Apotheke, which, with 15 years of oncology experience, can certainly provide you with competent assistance.