Tips for managing cancer treatment through natural disasters


Along the East Coast many are preparing for Hurricane Sandy to hit, and like many other natural disasters, cancer goes on - it just makes treating it a lot tougher for patients and their caregivers. Breast cancer survivor (and CURE publisher) Sue McClure would always joke with us that she'd get her radiation treatments Monday through Friday ... because cancer doesn't grow on the weekends. Unfortunately for many, unplanned interruptions in cancer treatment can bring about stress and anxiety.Several organizations and bloggers have put together preparation tips for patients:Cancer.Net, the patient-facing website for the American Society of Clinical Oncology offers these tips:

> Develop your plan with your oncologist. Talk to him or her about what you need to do to manage your cancer during emergencies.

> Talk with your family about different disasters that could occur and how the person with cancer could be affected. Write down a few solutions for coping with each scenario.Choose a place where everyone will meet during a disaster.

> Identify a friend or a relative for everyone to communicate with in case you and your loved ones are separated or cannot get to the meeting place. This person can also be a back-up for any important information you may need, such as phone numbers for your doctor or pharmacy.

> Don't forget to brainstorm specific needs, such as evacuation transportation assistance or help coordinating medical appointments during and after a disaster. You can read more at "Emergency Planning for People with Cancer."Survivor Jody Schoger, Women with Cancer blogger, explained how having your medical information on a flash drive or protected online could be helpful if you need to evacuate during a disaster in "Disaster Drill." Following the devastation of the Japanese earthquake in 2011 led Jody to write the post, but having weathered at least one hurricane, she writes, "compile your medical history, current medications and other pertinent medical information into a document and transfer it to the drive. Zip that puppy into your wallet and leave it there. You can also store the document in Dropbox or another web-based program like Backupify just in case."Another tip is to collect your medical team's contact information. CURE touched on this topic several years ago when Hurricane Katrina scattered many patients and survivors throughout the country for weeks and months. Working with their oncologists, many were able to get treatment locally. New Orleans-based oncologist Oliver Sartor gave his cell phone number to many of his patients before the storm hit. When it appeared that many residents weren't going to be able to return home immediately, he told them to find a medical oncologist where they were and have the physician call him to coordinate treatment. Many hospitals have a plan in place for natural disasters and evacuations. This tip sheet from Texas Oncology includes some other handy advice, such as "Know Your Coverage." Keep your insurance card handy and know what's available to you. To talk with other patients and survivors about problematic issues and helpful advice, the #bcsm (Breast Cancer Social Media) Twitter chat tonight focuses on emergency preparedness during cancer treatment. Patients of all cancers (and medical professionals too) are welcome to join the conversation. And it's not just patients that are affected. I heard this morning that the ASTRO (American Society for Radiation Oncology) annual meeting has been suspended in Boston until tomorrow.To all those facing Hurricane Sandy, stay safe. And if you have additional tips for patients and caregivers, feel free to comment.Update: You can read the full #bcsm Twitter transcript here.

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