For Patients: Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19


Because the situation changes rapidly, be sure to check our website regularly for the most up-to-date information.

Cancer patients have special concerns when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are answers to some of the questions you ask most often.

As a cancer patient, will I be affected more severely if I get the virus?

Right now we don’t have enough information to know if this is the case. We do know that cancer patients who are in treatment have weaker immune systems than healthy people, and other viruses tend to hit harder in people who are immunocompromised. That’s why you should follow precautions very carefully.

Should I wear a mask when going out in public?

Yes. In New York State, everyone is now required to wear a mask in public in any situation where it’s not possible to maintain physical distancing. The CDC recommends this practice for everyone across the country. Remember that even when you are wearing a mask, hand washing is your best defense against infection.

If you have a cough or fever, put on a mask when going to the hospital or a clinic appointment, to avoid spreading the infection to anyone else. If you do not have a mask, you can use a scarf or other fabric to cover both your nose and mouth. Find out how to wear a cloth face-covering properly — and how to make one yourself, even if you can’t sew.

Should I still go in to Roswell Park for my appointments?

Depending on your diagnosis, types of treatment, current disease status and other medical conditions, you may be eligible for a virtual visit with your Roswell Park provider. Instead of coming to campus for a traditional face-to-face appointment, you will connect by video chat.

Examples of situations in which a virtual visit may be an option for you include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Your provider believes that a discussion of your laboratory tests, CT or PET scans or biopsy results can be fully accomplished by video chat.
  • Your treatment involves oral chemotherapy drugs or targeted therapies and you are tolerating the therapy well and your dose remains the same. 
  • You are on long-term follow-up and do not want to postpone your visit.

If you are in remission after completing chemo-immunotherapy or chemotherapy and are on long-term follow-up, we may be able to postpone your visit until summer. We hope the COVID-19 pandemic will be over by then.

You do not need to call to find out if you’re eligible for a virtual visit. If this is an option for you, your Roswell Park providers will let you know directly. To take advantage of seeing your doctor in a virtual visit, we will need your email address.  If you are already registered on MyRoswell – Roswell Park’s patient portal, we will use the same email you used to register; you can always change your email by visiting MyRoswell and changing it in your account.  If you prefer not to register at this time, your care team will still need your email when scheduling your virtual visit.  While a portal account is not required for a virtual visit, we encourage all of our patients to take advantage of the many features the patient portal has to offer; if you are interested, you can register at today!

How to Prepare for a Virtual Visit

More Information

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve rapidly, find answers to frequently asked questions.

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What if I develop the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever greater than 100.4 degrees, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose and loss of taste and/or smell. However, these symptoms may be due to conditions other than COVID-19.

  • If you have mild symptoms, call our nurse triage team at 716-845-2300 to find out what to do next. If you are coughing or have a fever, wear a mask when you go out to the hospital or a clinic appointment, to avoid infecting others. If you do not have a mask, you can use a scarf or other fabric to cover both your nose and mouth.  Find out how to wear a cloth face-covering properly — and how to make one yourself, even if you can’t sew.
  • If you have these symptoms of a severe case of COVID-19, or any other life-threatening symptoms, call 911:
    • Trouble breathing
    • Pain or pressure in the chest that doesn’t go away
    • Bluish lips or face
    • Confusion that wasn’t present before
    • Someone else has trouble getting you to wake up or be alert.

If you are receiving active chemotherapy or chemo-immunotherapy and develop breathing problems or fever, contact your Roswell Park clinical care team immediately.