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Persistent Covid symptoms on cancer patients: An Oncologist’s viewpoint

As we reach the end of the deadly second wave of Covid-19 in India, several recovering patients stare at a long haul of dealing with persisting symptoms — now being defined as ‘long Covid’ by the doctors.

Dr. Niti Raizada, Director of Medical Oncology and Hemato Oncology and Transplant Physician at Fortis Hospital in Bengaluru, tells us why delayed cancer treatment coupled with ‘long Covid’symptoms have been a great challenge for patients fighting cancer.

Dr. Raizada stated that the severity of Covid infection depends upon the stage of cancer and also the fitness of the patient. ‘If a patient is in an advanced stage of cancer and is not doing well or if the patient is elderly with comorbidities, the recovery from Covid may be delayed, which in turn, may delay their cancer treatment,’ she said.

For cancer patients, recovery is more complicated as post-Covid symptoms or ‘long Covid’ syndrome can last for weeks or even months.

‘Such patients are likely to have chronic fatigue with extreme weakness, persistent cough, shortness of breath, palpitation, muscle pain and weakness, recurring, persistent headaches, difficulty in concentrating, as well as depression. Under such circumstances, many patients are not in the condition to re-start cancer treatment, which may aggravate their cancer,’ she added.

Hence, ‘long Covid’ is a terrifying factor and has the potential of increasing the rate of fatalities in cancer patients.

Dr Raizada further stated that ‘long Covid’ symptoms can be persistent and often overlaps with cancer symptoms like extreme weakness and fatigue. This in turn makes it difficult for patients to detect cancer at early stages, further worsening their situation by the time they reach out for cancer treatment.

‘However, what has been observed so far is that some cancer patients who are doing well despite ‘long Covid’ are those who have already had an early detection and could avail medical treatment despite the lockdowns,’ she further added.


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