Patient Satisfaction

Dayton Physicians Network has an overall patient satisfaction of 98.2% and patients are 98.3% likely to recommend our services to others.Request a Survey

Scalp Cooling Treatment is now available at Dayton Physicians Network locations

Chemotherapy-induced hair loss is widely recognized as the most feared side effect associated with cancer treatment. It is often the first question that people ask when they learn they will require chemotherapy, “Will I lose my hair?” Many patients rank hair loss as the most feared and traumatic side effect of their cancer treatment, it can lead to social isolation and the psychological effect is high often having a dramatic impact on self-esteem.

Paxman Scalp Cooling empowers patients to feel a greater sense of control. That is why, here at Dayton Physicians Network, we are delighted to offer the option of this treatment – also known as ‘cold cap’ – to help reduce hair loss for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Greater Dayton Cancer Center.

Why Chemotherapy Makes Hair Fall Out Chemotherapy works by targeting all rapidly dividing cells, and hair cells are the second-fastest-dividing cells in the body, which is why many chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss. Vulnerable hair follicles in the growth phase are attacked, resulting in rapid and extensive hair loss approximately two weeks after the start of chemotherapy.

Scalp Cooling Technology can alleviate the damage caused to the hair follicles by chemotherapy by reducing the temperature of the scalp by a few degrees before, during, and after chemotherapy treatment. This cooling causes blood vessel vasoconstriction in the scalp, which reduces blood flow and, therefore, reduces the number of chemotherapy agents that reach the hair follicles. The treatment is safe and relatively easy to tolerate. The most common side effect is a minor headache caused by the cooling. Research shows that scalp cooling does not affect cancer treatment and for patients, this means the opportunity to regain some control, maintain their privacy, and encourage a positive attitude toward their illness and treatment.

The success rate for Scalp Cooling is up to 70% for some chemotherapy regimens. It is lower for other regimens, but there is evidence that scalp cooling encourages faster, healthier and stronger regrowth than would occur without scalp cooling.

Financial Assistance

Financial assistance for Scalp Cooling is available [ ] Hair To Stay is a national non-profit subsidizing scalp cooling patients.

About Paxman

Paxman develops and offers the market leading Paxman Scalp Cooling System used to minimize hair loss in connection with chemotherapy treatment. Scalp cooling treatment has strong clinical support and is a fully established therapy in many countries throughout the world. Presently, the system is available at a large number of cancer centres in Europe, North- and South America, Asia and Australia. With more than 4,000 delivered systems to over 50 international markets, Paxman is the leading player in its field.

Paxman was founded as a family business by Glenn Paxman following his wife Sue Paxman’s hair loss in connection with chemotherapy treatment for cancer. The Paxman Scalp Cooling System is a self-contained, mobile, and electrically powered cooling unit, which circulates liquid coolant at low pressure through a special cooling cap on the patient’s head. The circulation of the refrigerated coolant through the cap extracts heat from the patient’s scalp maintaining temperature.

Each cooling unit has an integrated touch screen with a menu-controlled, graphic user interface that makes it easy for healthcare staff to initiate, monitor and complete the scalp cooling process. The associated Paxman cold cap is made from lightweight, biocompatible silicone that is soft and flexible, providing an optimal fit for the patient.


Paxman Scalp Cooling System is indicated to reduce the likelihood of chemotherapy-induced alopecia (CIA) in cancer patients with solid tumors such as ovarian, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.

Dayton Physicians Network Cancer Care and Urology achieves four-year accreditation for radiation oncology services from ASTRO’s APEx – Accreditation Program for Excellence®

Dayton, Ohio, August 11, 2021 — Dayton Physicians Network has successfully met the standards of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) APEx – Accreditation Program for Excellence®. APEx is an accreditation program developed by ASTRO that validates a radiation oncology facility’s excellence in delivering high-quality patient care. The four-year accreditation is effective until [July 26, 2025]. 

 “Dayton Physicians Network is pleased to receive APEx accreditation from ASTRO, the largest radiation oncology society in the world.” said Ryan Steinmetz, MD, Medical Director of Radiation Oncology Services. . “Our entire radiation oncology team was invested in evaluating our processes to meet ASTRO’s high standards for safety and quality. Securing APEx accreditation serves to reinforce our obligation to deliver consistent patient-centered cancer care.”

“ASTRO commends Dayton Physicians Network for achieving APEx accreditation. By undergoing this comprehensive review, the facility has demonstrated a strong commitment to delivering safe, high-quality radiation oncology services to their patients,” said Thomas J. Eichler, MD, FASTRO, chair of the ASTRO Board of Directors.

Accreditation through APEx is a voluntary and rigorous multi-step process during which a facility’s practices are evaluated using consensus-based standards. The center must demonstrate its safety and quality processes and demonstrate that it adheres to patient-centered care by promoting effective communication, coordinated treatments and strong patient engagement.

The APEx accreditation process includes a facility self-assessment as well as a comprehensive onsite facility review by a radiation oncologist and a medical physicist. The program reflects the recommendations endorsed in the ASTRO publication Safety is No Accident: A Framework for Quality Radiation Oncology and Care.
To date, more than 170 U.S. facilities have earned APEx accreditation. Learn more about APEx at

ABOUT Dayton Physicians Network:

[Dayton Physicians Network takes a comprehensive approach to Patient Centered Care because it often takes the combined skills of several medical professionals to provide the best possible care for a patient. This is especially true when dealing with cancer or other serious conditions. Care is best when the various people involved are well connected. This connection improves communications, reduces wait time and also reduces travel time, keeping your loved one close to home for care.

At Dayton Physicians Network our Vision is to be the BEST PLACE FOR CARE and Mission to Exceed Expectations in quality of care, scope of service, compassion, timeliness and cost effectiveness.

That is why Dayton Physicians Network brought together a comprehensive team of multi-disciplinary Oncologists, Hematologists and Urologists, who work closely with other highly trained and experienced medical specialists – including pathologists, radiologists and surgeons – to provide precisely the care and treatment you need, want and deserve.

All of the doctors in Dayton Physicians Network are recognized leaders in their fields, with the credentials to provide it. We have the region’s leading team of board-certified physicians and experienced staff using advanced technologies to provide Patient Centered Cancer Care, Radiation Therapy, Urology and Hematology. All of these team members are committed to this unique collaboration that has one simple goal…

To provide the very best care for our patients. Best Expertise, Best Access, and Best Value.

Dayton Physicians Network was one of the first oncology focused physician practices. Today, we have grown to 50 physicians and mid-level providers and 350 employees. We provide support services for patients and their loved ones, offering immediate care at 12 practice locations from Greenville to Middletown keeping them close to home..]

Dayton Physicians Network Cancer Care and Urology would like to welcome

Krishnanath Gaitonde, MD, MBA

Krishnanath Gaitonde, MD, MBA – Urology

Special Interests:

  • Robotic Surgery
  • Minimally Invasive Surgery for Urologic Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer Focal Therapy (Cryotherapy, HIFU),
  • Endourology for Complex Stone Disease and Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH)

Currently seeing patients at the following locations:

  • Miami Valley Hospital North
  • Miami Valley Hospital South

Learn more about Dr. Gaitonde:

Spencer Hill, MD

Spencer Hill, MD – Urology

Special Interests:

  • Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery
  • Kidney Cancer, Prostate Cancer
  • Focal Treatment for Prostate Cancer
  • Benign Prostate Disease
  • Kidney Stones

Currently seeing patients at the following locations:

  • Miami Valley Hospital North
  • Miami Valley Hospital South

Learn more about Dr. Hill:

Trevor Bluemel, MD

Trevor Bluemel, MD – Radiation Oncology

Special Interests:

  • Head and Neck Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • General Radiation Oncology

Currently seeing patients at the following locations:

  • Atrium Medical Center
  • Greater Dayton Cancer Center
  • Miami Valley Hospital North
  • Upper Valley Medical Center
  • Wayne Cancer Center

Learn more about Dr. Bluemel:

CareSpace Patient Records Download.

Effective September 30, 2021, Dayton Physicians Network will no longer use CareSpace as our patient portal to access your medical records. Our new electronic medical record platform will be Epic, which offers a different patient portal called MyChart. If you are interested in downloading your medical records out of CareSpace or emailing them to someone else, please follow the below instructions before September 30th.

Log into CareSpace at

  1. Enter your Email (that is registered with CareSpace)
  2. Enter your Password
  3. Click Log in


Patients and authorized representatives can view, download, and transmit their health information via CareSpace. Built based on regulatory guidelines, this feature promotes interoperability and enables patients to securely share their records with another provider.

From the “Health” page, patients have the ability to “Send Record” or “Download” their CCDA as HTML.

To Download

  1. Select the download button
  2. Select Download HTML
  3. Enter start and end dates of medical information
  4. Click Download

To Send Record (to yourself, a caregiver or another provider), patients should include the following:

  1. Select ‘send record’ 
  2. Enter the recipient’s email address (your e-mail or someone else’s e-mail)
  3. Enter the desired Start and End date of medical information
  4. Enter any notes for the recipient
  5. Enter A password for security and encryption purposes

* You, or your recipient will need to use this to ‘open’ the document that is received

Premier Health Adds MD Anderson Cancer Network® Certified Physician

Roger Wood, MD, Earns Certification

DAYTON, Ohio (April 12, 2021) – Premier Health is pleased to announce Roger Wood, MD, is now an MD Anderson Cancer Network certified physician. Wood specializes in hematology and medical oncology with Dayton Physicians Network and sees patients at Miami Valley Hospital North. Cancer specialists who are certified undergo a rigorous process to successfully meet all the cancer network’s standards; 53 Premier Health physicians have achieved this differentiating certification. 

Premier Health is Southwest Ohio’s only certified member of MD Anderson Cancer Network, a program of MD Anderson Cancer Center. Based in Houston, MD Anderson is one of the world’s most respected cancer centers, focused on multidisciplinary patient care, research, education, and prevention. MD Anderson is one of the nation’s original comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute to help pioneer the guidelines that set the standard of cancer care today. 

Physicians certified by MD Anderson Cancer Network have access to powerful tools and treatment guidelines to help ensure all patients get world-renowned care. Guidelines include treatment plans, prevention steps, early detection methods, and follow-up care, bringing the expertise of a national leader in cancer care to local patients here in Southwest Ohio. 

Premier Health offers cancer services for patients and their families, conveniently located throughout the region at all of its hospital sites and more, including Miami Valley Hospital, Miami Valley Hospital South, Miami Valley Hospital North, Atrium Medical Center, and Upper Valley Medical Center.

For more information, visit


About Premier Health

Based in Dayton, Ohio, Premier Health ( has a mission to improve the health of the communities it serves. The health system has five hospital locations: Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton with additional inpatient sites at Miami Valley Hospital South in Centerville and Miami Valley Hospital North in Englewood; Atrium Medical Center in Middletown; and Upper Valley Medical Center in Miami County. In addition, the health system offers a wide range of care choices, including virtual care; e-visits; a telestroke network and other telehealth options; an urgent care network; free-standing emergency departments; a large primary and specialty care network; and home health services. Premier Health is among the largest employers and health care systems in Southwest Ohio.

Media Contact:
Renee Roberts
mobile 937-673-9376 

Overactive Bladder is a treatable condition. Explore therapies that can help.



Overactive Bladder is a treatable condition. Explore therapies that can help you get back to living life your way.

1 in 6
adults 1,2 has OAB

Dayton Physicians Network

It’s more common than vision problems and Diabetes 3,4. But it’s not a normal part of aging. And you shouldn’t have to deal with it on your own.


  • Explore conditions, causes, and symptoms.
  • Understand all your treatment options.
  • Learn which therapies Medicare and private insurers cover.

DATE: Monday, April 26, 2021
TIME: 6:30pm

Register for this free virtual event by scanning this QR code on your mobile device or by visiting:

To register online, open your phone camera and scan this QR code. Click the link to the web browser to open online registration portal.

Co-sponsored by Medtronic and
Dr. Joseph Wan- Dayton Physicians Urology

Dr. Joseph Wan

Stewart WF, Van Rooyen JB, Cundiff GW et al. Prevalence and burden of overactive bladder in the United States. World J Urol. 2003;20(6):327-336.

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2011). World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision, CD-ROM Edition.

National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Accessed July 1, 2020.

National diabetes statistics, 2011. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse website Accessed July 1, 2020.

COVID-19 Vaccine: What Cancer Patients and Survivors Need to Know


Dayton Physicians Network Provides Education to Cancer Survivors on COVID Vaccine

Dr. Satheesh Kathula of Dayton Physicians Network Discusses the Benefits of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Many cancer survivors and patients are wondering if it’s safe to get one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines since we understand that age and having an underlying medical condition, such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes put people at a greater risk of developing serious illness or complications from the virus. Dr. Satheesh Kathula, MD, an oncologist at Dayton Physicians Network, offers insight on this important topic.

Common Questions

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, MD, oncologist at Dayton Physicians Network, said cancer patients are at risk in general because of their advanced age. In addition, there are issues with immunity with cancer and some patients are getting treatments such as chemotherapy which makes them not only prone to get COVID infection, but also have more severe disease with increased morbidity and mortality” said Dr. Kathula.

Patients who have certain types of cancers, such as blood cancer or lung cancer have a greater risk of infection or death from COVID – not only because of the cancer, but because of the type of treatment they receive.

Dr. Kathula said doctors have to consider whether a person is an active cancer patient or a cancer survivor. Another consideration for cancer patients is the aggressiveness of their disease. Patients who have a worsening disease are at a higher risk.

“Even in active cancer patients, it depends on what kind of treatment they are receiving,” he said.

Treatment options for cancer can range from surgery, radiation, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted treatments, or B-cell depleted treatments (B-cells are needed for immunity, and if you don’t have immunity, you are at more risk of getting infections and dying from them.)

Dr. Kathula said approximately two-thirds of patients at Dayton Physicians Network want to get vaccinated and the other third of patients have expressed a concern about safety, or they don’t want to get vaccinated or waiting for a vaccine which is one dose only and is “completely” safe.

“The risks of COVID vaccine in cancer patients are pretty similar to non cancer patients., but the real question is the efficacy,” he said.

According to Dr. Kathula, many patients are more accepting when he shares his own vaccination experience.

“When patients are concerned, I share my personal experience with the vaccine. I’ve had two doses of the vaccine. I did okay with the first vaccine, but with the second one, I did have mild, flu-like symptoms for a day or so, but when you look at the benefits and risks of the vaccine, I can say that the benefits outweigh the risks,” said Kathula.

Timing of the Vaccine

Once the vaccine is available widely, it may be appropriate to start, or put your cancer treatments on hold until the vaccine has been administered. Your doctor or oncologist can give you the best advice in regard to the timing of the vaccination and how it will impact your cancer treatment. Considerations like the type of cancer and kind of treatment you receive may have an impact on when you should receive the vaccination.

“When we are treating patients with active cancer, one has to weigh the benefits and risks, whether the patient can wait for the treatment to begin before they receive the vaccination. Can we vaccinate and then treat? If they have low-grade disease, or indolent disease, we can certainly wait, give the vaccine, wait for four to six weeks, and then start treatment. That can prevent infection,” Dr. Kathula said.

Patients that are undergoing surgery, radiation, targeted treatment, or immunotherapy can receive the vaccine with no compromise in the efficacy, he said.

“On the other hand, if somebody has a rapidly progressive disease, we need to treat them with the appropriate treatments, and then vaccinate when they’re done with treatments,” Kathula.said.

Patients that are receiving chemotherapy or B-cell depleted treatments have to wait, because the vaccine may not work if they are undergoing these types of treatments.

“The caregivers of patients who are undergoing active treatments have to be vaccinated, because they can actually give infections to these patients who are mostly homebound,” said Kathula.

Vaccines are Safe, Check with Your Doctor

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the approved COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing symptomatic infection and require two doses to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Generally, for cancer survivors and active patients, a COVID-19 vaccine is considered safe, but there are factors to consider. It is best to talk with your doctor about the treatment options that are available to you.

“We have to look at two things when we are giving any treatment or a vaccine, number one, safety, and number two, efficacy. So, is it safe in all these patients? It is safe, I can say, whether they are getting treatments, they have active cancer, or whether they are cancer survivors. There is no live virus involved, that’s why the safety is as good as with any other population, and what is the efficacy? That’s what we don’t know because there’s no data. However, we recommend the vaccine due to favorable risk benefit ratio”

Cancer survivors and patients are in one of the priority groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Continue Safe Practices

Regardless of whether patients receive the vaccination, Dr. Kathula of Dayton Physicians Network said it is important to continue wearing a mask, to maintain physical distancing and to wash your hands frequently. Even with a vaccination, these protocols need to be continued to ensure the maximum level of safety for everyone.

“The vaccine should not give a false sense of security, not only for cancer patients, but everybody else. So, we still have to maintain all of these practices.”

So, for cancer survivors, he said, they are at higher risk than general population, but they are at less risk than patients that are undergoing active treatments, especially chemotherapy and B-cell depleting treatments. They come under Phase 1C, according to the CDC guidelines. (Phase 1C has not started yet.) However, in certain places, some patients are already receiving the vaccine.

Dayton Physicians Network Offers Patient-Centered Care

Established in 2006, Dayton Physicians Network takes a comprehensive approach to patient-centered care, because it often takes the combined skills of several medical professionals to provide the best care possible. The mission of Dayton Physicians Network is to earn the trust of patients and colleagues by exceeding their expectations with quality of care, scope of services, compassion, timeliness, and cost effectiveness.

Dayton Physicians Network was one of the first oncology-focused physician practices in the area. Based in Dayton with more than 50 physicians and mid-level care providers, along with 350 employees on our team, the network provides support services for patients and their loved ones, offering immediate care at 12 practice locations from Greenville to Middletown. For more information about Dayton Physicians Network go to

To learn more about COVID-19 and vaccines, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites.

COVID-19 And Cancer: Implications For Patients

Dayton Physicians NetworkFacing a cancer diagnosis is an enormous challenge under the best of circumstances. When you add in a global pandemic, the physical and mental stressors compound.

Medical oncologist Mark Marinella, MD, FACP, from Dayton Physicians Network, provided insights to Premier Health Now about how people with cancer can best take care of themselves during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

Immune System Challenges

“For people with cancer, there are both disease-related and treatment-related risks of getting the virus or having more serious complications from the virus,” Dr. Marinella explains.

He treats all types of cancer and says people with blood cancers – leukemias, lymphomas, and multiple myeloma – are at the greatest risk concerning coronavirus because these cancers carry an immune system defect with them, and the drugs used to treat them can cause immune suppression. Even in remission, people with blood cancers may have a higher risk of contracting the virus or having serious complications.

People actively receiving cancer treatment also need to consider the effects of a weakened immune system, potentially worsening the effects of COVID-19.

For people who have recovered from solid tumors like breast or colon cancer years ago, Dr. Marinella says their immune systems should be intact, and they probably are not at greater risk of experiencing the virus and its complications.

Taking Extra Precautions

Both Dr. Marinella and the National Cancer Institute recommend steps people with cancer can take to avoid getting COVID-19 and possible serious complications of the virus. The guidelines are similar to suggestions for the general population, but even more critical to follow.


  • Crowds
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Touching your mouth, nose, and especially eyes (a gateway for coronavirus infection)
  • Handshaking
  • Having visitors if you are in active treatment
  • Non-essential travel

Choose to:

  • Wash hands frequently
  • Wipe down hard surfaces often, especially door handles, faucet handles, and any stainless steel or plastic surfaces
  • Keep several weeks of medication and supplies on hand in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time
  • Eat a healthy, plant-based diet
  • Exercise
  • Consider wearing a mask if you have to go out in public places

He recommends that family members and friends stay away if they have a cough, respiratory symptoms, or unusual symptoms like loss of taste or smell.

How Medical Offices Are Adapting Care

To keep people with cancer at home as much as possible, Dr. Marinella says he and other physicians are changing cancer treatment regimens from IV to oral doses whenever appropriate.

“We are minimizing trips in and out of the house for people,” he explains. “When we can, we’re lengthening the amount of time between treatments, for example, treating every four weeks instead of every three weeks.”

Other measures include avoiding steroids, which can deplete the immune system, and using telehealth visits when possible.

For those who do come in for their cancer treatments, he says, “Don’t panic if you have to come in for treatment.”

Medical facilities are taking lots of precautions. Miami Valley Hospital South, where he sees patients, is screening people for fever at the hospital entrance. Nurses, doctors, and phlebotomists are wearing masks to minimize spread of infection. Reduced schedules have eliminated crowds.

Staying Mentally Strong

“Cancer is stressful enough on its own, plus now we have the pandemic,” Dr. Marinella says. “I would suggest that people avoid watching too much news on television and radio.”

He recommends staying connected with friends, family, a faith group, or other groups through Zoom or similar video platforms. Dr. Marinella encourages getting outside when it’s sunny and walking around your yard or neighborhood. Watch funny shows, read a book, or pursue a hobby.

Family members can help by supporting their loved one emotionally, bringing meals, and keeping a positive attitude.

“I’ve seen a lot of toughness in my patients,” Dr. Marinella comments. “I haven’t seen people shrinking back from their treatment. They’ve been pretty positive. I’ve been amazed.”

New Drug Shows Promising Results For Metastatic Breast Cancer

Dayton Physicians NetworkA new cancer drug called tucatinib (Tukysa) recently was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to slow tumor progression and prolong life in women with metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer

Oncologist Shamim Jilani, MD, from Dayton Physicians Network describes to Premier Health Now the potential impact of this new drug, saying, “We previously had an unmet need for the group of patients with HER2-positive breast cancer who have brain metastatic disease (cancer that spreads to the brain). There is a substantial population who will benefit from this drug. If I have a patient who is appropriate, I won’t hesitate to use it.”

Dr. Jilani applauds cancer research efforts that continue even as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic. “The lives of people with advanced cancer may well depend on receiving new treatments without delay,” she says.

The FDA approved tucatinib four months ahead of schedule, based on positive results from clinical trials.

The trial included patients who had already tried one or more other cancer treatments. They received either tucatinib (Tukysa) or a placebo, in combination with chemotherapies trastuzumab (Herceptin) and capecitabine (Xeloda).

“The drug produced a very impressive, amazing result,” Dr. Jilani says.

“Tucatinib, in combination with trastuzumab and capecitabine, versus placebo, reduced the risk of death by one third; reduced the risk of progression or death by half in all patients, including patients with brain metastases; and almost doubled the response rate.”

Dr. Jilani adds, “In patients with brain metastases, there was a 52 percent lower risk of disease progression or death. For this subset of patients, this is very impressive data.

“I am really excited when I look at this. The greatest news is we are prolonging people’s lives,” she says with enthusiasm. “Previously, we had nothing to offer as a standard of care for brain metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer.”

Tucatinib Has Potential To Be First-Line Treatment

Twenty percent of women with breast cancer have HER2-positive breast cancer, an aggressive disease fueling cancer growth through excess HER2 protein on tumor cells. If the cancer is not detected while still confined to the breast, up to 50 percent of these women develop cancer in their brains (metastases).

Since the late 1990s, drugs targeted to stop or slow the progression of HER2-positive breast cancer have continued to emerge. Tucatinib, which is taken by mouth, works in concert with two of these therapies by binding to the HER2 protein inside a cancer cell and prevents it from sending signals that promote cancer cell growth.

Dr. Jilani explains that the new drug regimen with tucatinib is designed to slow cancer progression and prolong a person’s life, but not to cure the cancer. A patient continues to take the treatment as long as it is providing beneficial results.

“Patients are living longer with metastatic breast cancer,” she says. “I am very hopeful this will be the new standard of care, the first-line treatment, in the near future for breast cancer patients with brain metastases.”

New Study Shows COVID-19 Plus Cancer Equals Higher Death Risk

Dayton Physicians NetworkFor people with cancer that is getting worse or spreading, getting COVID-19 makes the chance of dying within a month five times higher, according to data recently presented at a national cancer conference.

In addition, the study found that the virus nearly doubled the risk of dying (as compared to the general public), even if the person’s cancer was not spreading.

To shed light on these findings for cancer patients, Premier Health Now spoke with medical oncologist/hematologist Satheesh Kathula, MD, with Dayton Physicians Network® and certified physician with MD Anderson Cancer Network at Premier Health.

Dr. Kathula says the implications of the study on receiving cancer treatment depend on an individual’s circumstances. “We can’t put all cancer patients into one basket. Talk to your oncologist to make an informed decision. Weigh the benefits and the risks. If you have curable cancer — for example, early stage breast cancer, leukemia, lymphoma — don’t delay the treatment. Also, if you have good performance status [functioning well in everyday life] with a meaningful chance to recover or prolong life, don’t put off the treatment.”

Why Cancer Patients Are At Increased Risk With COVID-19

Dr. Kathula explains that several factors contribute to an increased risk of death for cancer patients. “Many cancer patients are elderly. Many have poor performance status, [bedridden or partially bedridden] with compromised immunity, especially if cancer is spreading. They often have poor nutrition and weight loss due to loss of appetite.”

“I expected this,” Dr. Kathula says of the study results.

The type of cancer a person has also influences the impact of COVID. “Patients with lung cancer tend to have increased mortality. Their lung capacity is compromised because of the disease itself. They tend to be smokers and have COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]. Patients with blood-related cancers have more risk from COVID, as well.”

He continues, “The type of treatment also matters. Patients on heavy-duty chemotherapy have increased risk because immunity goes down.”

Other types of cancer treatment, such as immunotherapy or targeted therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors, did not present a greater risk of death from COVID-19 among people with cancer.

Dr. Kathula also commented on the study’s report that cancer patients who received corticosteroids to reduce inflammation were 1.5 times more likely to die. He explains, “Patients on chronic immunosuppression [from cancer-fighting medications] have a higher chance of infection. If the use of corticosteroids is just short term, however, it can help inflammation.”

He notes that the corticosteroid dexamethasone is actually helping some patients on ventilators who are critically ill with COVID-19.

Preventing COVID-19 In Cancer Patients

One of the best ways to lessen COVID’s impact on cancer patients is to prevent them from getting the virus, Dr. Kathula says.

“We have to educate our patients. Most stay at home and are careful. They wash hands and wear masks. They are disciplined and follow instructions.”

He encourages friends and family members to be extra careful and limit visits, especially if they have been in public gatherings. “We have a responsibility to save vulnerable people. Avoid close contact and take precautions,” he says.

Evaluate When To Get Cancer Screenings

Those who don’t have cancer may be questioning when to resume their cancer screenings.

Dr. Kathula notes, “Everything is open again for cancer screenings – colonoscopy, mammogram, Pap smear.”

Whether to schedule your screening now or wait a few months depends on your individual circumstances and the recommendation of your physician(s), based on factors such as age and other health conditions.

“You have to weigh the benefits and risks,” Dr. Kathula says. “If you’re at high risk for breast cancer, colon cancer, or another type of cancer, but you are otherwise fairly young and healthy, you should get screenings on your regular schedule.”