COVID-19 Guide for Kidney Cancer Patients

COVID-19 and kidney cancer

KCCure has been closely monitoring the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and the impact it is having on kidney cancer patients. The following resources have been developed, in consultation with our scientific advisory board members, to address the most frequently asked questions we have received from kidney cancer patients.

We are working diligently to update this page regularly as more information becomes available.

Treatments for kidney cancer include targeted agents, such as: Sutent, Cabometyx, Inlyta, Votrient, and Lenvima; And immunotherapy treatments, including: Opdivo, Opdivo+Yervoy and Keytruda. Unlike chemotherapy, which can suppress the immune system, increased risk of viral infections is not generally associated with the most common treatments for kidney cancer.

Guidance from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO), does not recommend routinely withholding cancer treatment as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. You and your doctor should discuss the balance of potential harms from delaying or interrupting your cancer treatment versus the potential benefits of possibly preventing or delaying COVID-19 infection.

While kidney cancer treatment might not result in increased risk, patients who have metastatic cancer in their body may be at higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19. It is recommended that all patients receiving treatment for advanced kidney cancer take extra precautions to avoid risk of exposure to COVID-19.

If you have one kidney (or lost part of a kidney due to a partial nephrectomy) but are otherwise healthy, then your risk of acquiring COVID-19 would likely be similar to someone with two kidneys.

Every situation is unique, and many factors can result in increased risk. You should consult with your health care provider for information about your individual risk.

You may have seen information about the risk of COVID-19 for patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Most patients with kidney cancer do not have chronic kidney disease (CKD). If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), you can find more information about your risk of COVID-19 here.

Most people infected with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. A small proportion of patients with COVID-19 develop severe infection and require hospitalization. According to the International Society of Nephrology, in these hospitalized patients, a small percentage (15%) developed a decline in filtration function of the kidneys.

COVID-19 is a new virus and doctors still are learning about how it impacts individuals. The long-term health effect of kidney injury on survivors of COVID-19 infection is not known.

Reducing touch-points, including hospital visits and in-person appointments, can help reduce exposure and free up health care resources for emergency situations.

The federal government, as well as many state governments, have changed rules and eased restrictions on tele-health appointments. Ask your doctor what options are available for you to avoid in-person appointments.

Here are some additional suggestions to reduce touch-points that patients might want to consider discussing with their doctor.

Newly diagnosed patients with asymptomatic localized renal masses Discuss with your doctor the risks vs. benefits of delaying surgery for 1-2 months
Patients with localized disease who are getting structured surveillance Discuss with your doctor the risks vs. benefits of delaying scans for 1-2 months.
Newly diagnosed patients with intermediate/high risk metastatic kidney cancer Discuss the risks vs. benefits of beginning infusion therapy immediately; ask about oral treatment options. 
Patients with metastatic disease receiving infusion therapy If receiving maintenance bi-weekly nivolumab (Opdivo), discuss moving to monthly infusions; Discuss the risks vs. benefits of treatment pauses for your individual case. 

Many patients are surprised to learn that most surgeries for kidney cancer fall under the category of elective surgery.

The term “elective” is distressing to cancer patients as it suggests that surgery to remove a tumor is a choice, similar to a cosmetic procedure.

While the name “elective” might imply that this type of surgery is optional, that is not always the case. An elective procedure is simply one that is planned in advance, rather than one that’s done in an emergency situation.

Emergency surgeries include appendectomies or cardiac procedures for someone experiencing a heart attack.  These are surgeries where patients would likely die without rapid intervention.

To learn more about changes related to elective surgeries and what it means for kidney cancer patients, click on the link below.

As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, kidney cancer patients have been impacted in many ways. Many patients have expressed concerns about kidney cancer drug supply issues as a result of the pandemic. Learn more about drug availability for the most widely used treatments for advanced RCC.

KCCure ran a patient survey from March 22 to March 25, asking patients to share their experiences, anxieties and concerns about managing their cancer diagnosis during the pandemic. Read the full details and access downloadable slides.

Please note: The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment for a specific medical condition. You should not use information on this website to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease and should consult with a qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

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