NEW YORK (CBS Newspath) – New research is reassuring for breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy during the pandemic. There have been concerns that treatments like chemo could make patients more vulnerable to the coronavirus. Now an NYU Langone Health study shows breast cancer patients treated with chemo do not have an increased risk for COVID-19 infection, compared to patients who had other treatments.
“We also found that patients who contracted COVID-19, who had previously received chemotherapy, did not have a higher mortality rate,” says Dr. Douglas Marks, a medical oncologist at NYU Langone.
He led the study of more than 3,000 breast cancer patients treated at the height of the pandemic. Older and overweight patients had a higher risk of dying from COVID. “The risk factors that have been identified in the general population still hold true. So, in counseling a patient, we still have to be mindful of their general medical conditions,” Dr. Marks says.
Researchers say this study is believed to be the first to look at whether breast cancer therapies can affect COVID-19 infection and death risk.
Tricia Vertucci has been fighting breast cancer this past year. The 46-year-old mother had a double mastectomy and started 16 rounds of chemotherapy just before COVID hit. Her essential worker husband moved out to keep her safe. “It was really scary, it really was. And then, God forbid I got COVID, that’s why my husband had to go live somewhere else. My immune system was shot, between all the chemo and just, you know, the surgery three months prior to that,” Vertucci says.
After chemo, Vertucci had six months of radiation and some reconstructive surgeries. “I’m getting back to being whole again and feeling good about myself again. I could not have gone through this without my family and my friends, and I come out on the other side learning that I’m very strong,” she says. Vertucci says she’s looking forward to taking a vacation and starting a new job.