How Might a Surge of Coronavirus Patients Impact Access for Bladder Cancer Patients?

Last updated: March 2020

I am in one of the epicenters of the coronavirus, the San Francisco Bay Area. The cruise ship with a coronavirus outbreak just docked in Oakland today. By the hour, local officials are announcing school closures and event cancellations. Santa Clara County (35 miles south of San Francisco and home to Silicon Valley) just announced a two-week moratorium (via a court order) on events with more than 1,000 people.

Elective surgeries may be postponed

And the hospital at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) announced that elective surgeries may be postponed if the hospital experiences a surge of coronavirus cases. UCSF was where my first husband, Ahmad, received state-of-the-art care when he had metastatic bladder cancer. It is one of the top urologic oncology facilities in the region.

Ability to access care

While I am deeply concerned about coronavirus patients, this announcement from UCSF got me wondering how access to care for bladder cancer patients might be impacted. It is highly likely other institutions may follow suit. Hopefully, all of this will be a short-term situation until the virus is under control. And certainly, we would expect that cancer patients would remain a priority (nothing “elective” about bladder cancer!). But the potential surge in demand could impact bladder cancer patients’ ability to access care.

What might the impact be on bladder cancer patients?

It may become more difficult to access your primary care doctor. Hopefully, urologists and oncologists won’t be impacted in the same way. There could be longer waits in emergency rooms if more people are seeking care. (Someone once suggested the idea of having separate emergency rooms just for cancer patients. I think the current situation highlights just how helpful that would be.)

If you need to be admitted to the hospital, there may not be as many beds available as usual. And the risk of contracting the coronavirus (or any infection) is likely greater in the hospital. Especially for higher-risk patients such as the elderly or those with underlying conditions.

What can you do?

The best “medicine” in this case is to not need any medicine or emergency/hospital care! But obviously, it’s not optional. And when you have bladder cancer, there are so many reasons why you might need care – from leaking bags, to blood clots, to transfusions after chemo, and so on.

Preparedness vs. panic

But you can still do what you can – like following the advice being drilled into us all about handwashing and social distancing. Stock up on your medicines now to the extent you can. Hopefully, this is a few weeks of an acute situation and then we will be past it. But there is no harm in having plenty of your prescription and other medicines on hand in case of mass closures, shortages, etc. Thinking like this as a bladder cancer patient is not panic, it’s preparedness as a potentially high-risk patient.

Digital care

If you do need care, find out if you can receive it digitally. Many facilities are rapidly expanding their digital appointments and outreach. Depending on the medical reason, this could be a good option.

And finally, if you must go to the emergency room or urgent care, call ahead and ask about any special protocols for enhanced safety for cancer patients and immune-compromised patients. I suspect institutions nationwide are racing to review and update these practices to enhance everyone’s safety.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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