Many Cancer Patients In Illinois Still Getting Treatment, Despite COVID-19 Concerns

Apr 14, 2020
Originally published on April 15, 2020 2:49 pm

Shenecko Jimerson beat breast cancer a few years ago. After her celebration, she found out the cancer returned and she was diagnosed with triple metastatic breast cancer. She is on radiation - treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

“This is the worst pain I’ve ever been in,” Jimerson said. “I have seizures now, and it’s scary to me.” 

Jimerson said she’s happy the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped her treatment, but her life has been changed drastically.

“I’m not allowed to be around other people, and I’m only allowed to go to treatment, and because of the new coronavirus, I’m almost scared to go to treatment,” she said.

Anyone who is immunosuppressed is at high risk for COVID-19 infection, but doctors at Cancer Treatment Centers of America are taking precautions.

Julian Schink, an oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Illinois, said like Jimerson, many patients are still pursuing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

If a person is on chemotherapy, it limits their infection fighting capacity, making them more vulnerable to other diseases like COVID-19.

“It is patients with hematologic malignancies, things like leukemia and lymphoma, because their chemotherapy markedly depresses their immune cells,” Schink said.

He said patients with solid tumors, lung cancer, and colon cancer are also included in the vulnerable population. But if treatment options are delayed, patients will suffer, Schink said.

“Cancer patients will tell you that the threat of this virus to them is if they miss out on their cancer treatment, and that increases their chance of dying from cancer,” Schink said.

CTCA has changed the way they screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms. They screen them over the phone, and when they arrive at the center. And like most medical facilities, they have restricted visitation, as well.

“I beat cancer before, and I know I can do it again,” Jimerson said. “I’m going to put it in God’s hands, stay strong, and keep fighting.”

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