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6 Ways Cancer Patients Can Prepare for a Natural Disaster

Hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes? Here’s what you need to know if a disaster strikes while you’re dealing with cancer.

By Julie Marks

Medically Reviewed by Thomas Marron, MD, PhD

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Do you have a treatment plan in place in case a natural disaster strikes?
Do you have a treatment plan in place in case a natural disaster strikes?
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

A natural disaster can be a scary situation for anyone, and if you have cancer, you might face even more challenges than most people.

Cancer can weaken your immune system and make you more prone to infections. You might also worry about how you’ll get your medicines and where you should go if your doctor’s office building is damaged.

Michael Diaz, MD, director of patient advocacy for the Florida Society of Clinical Oncology in St. Petersburg, helped assemble a task force for cancer care delivery in the aftermath of the Puerto Rico hurricanes. He says that patients should ask themselves: What should I do if the health system as I know it no longer exists?

The next step? Make a plan — just in case.

Here are Dr. Diaz’s suggestions:

1. Assemble Your Paperwork

Diaz suggests putting your medical papers in a binder. “Specifically, with cancer patients, it’s very helpful for them to have all their documents in one place,” he says. Important information shouldn’t be kept solely on your cellphone because your battery could die. Include copies of your medical records, health insurance forms, lab reports, prescriptions, and doctor’s contact info. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) offers a wallet card tool to help patients and doctors stay connected during a natural disaster.

2. Safeguard Your Meds — and Stock Up 

Put all your medication and medical supplies in a waterproof, resealable plastic bag. Also, get your prescriptions filled if you know a natural disaster might be headed your way. “If patients have two weeks of a medication or less, they should get refills,” says Diaz.

3. Protect Yourself From Infection

Be sure to wash your hands frequently, and avoid germs. Buy an alcohol-based sanitizer in case you don’t have access to soap and water. Staying in a shelter can put you in close quarters with others who are sick. Ask if there’s a separate area for people with medical needs. If you develop a cut, keep it clean and dry until it heals.

4. Choose a Backup Medical Facility

“Any patient should ask their doctor, ‘So, what happens if this practice is no longer here?’ You need to have a backup,” Diaz says. Talk to your physician about where you should go if you need to visit another location. ASCO offers a list of oncologists with volunteers to help patients find care after a hurricane. If you need to leave your home during the disaster, look for a shelter that caters to people with medical conditions.

5. Tell Your Doctor About Your Plans

If you plan to evacuate, let your healthcare team know about it. “Believe it or not, this is one of the biggest mistakes we see people make in a disaster,” Diaz says. “We’ve had patients go stay with family, and they couldn’t get care because their doctor didn’t know.” If you need assistance in your new location and can’t get in touch with your provider, Diaz recommends contacting an organization like the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute.

6. Get Support

Find someone who can help you during a disaster. This might be a neighbor, family member, or friend. “They can’t remain isolated,” Diaz says. “They need to try to have a support system to help them out, so they can have some assistance.”

The Bottom Line

In addition to making medical preparations, don’t forget to stock up on essentials, like bottled water, batteries, gasoline, and food.

While facing a disaster with cancer might sound overwhelming, proper planning can offer you peace of mind.

Try not to be anxious. Remember, if you prepared correctly, you should have enough resources to deal with any type of natural disaster.






Video: Cancer Treatment: Chemotherapy

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Date: 02.12.2018, 12:20 / Views: 63363