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Frequently Asked Questions

What You Need to Know about Prostate Cancer and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

About this FAQ

This is a very scary time for us all. Many of us are feeling anxious and stressed, and are worried about the future. In talking to patients and families, we hear your concerns. What if my job is lost, and health care is no longer covered? What if my treatment is delayed? What happens if a caregiver catches the virus?

We hope our FAQs can alleviate fears and offer some relief. Below is a word cloud based on the answers you gave us on how you are feeling during the COVID-19 crisis. Please know we are in this together and your ZERO community is here for you.

Have a question that you don’t see answered here? Send us an email and we’ll do our best to answer it. Don’t be shy to ask — your question could help another patient or family! Be sure to explore our other COVID-19 related resources for more information as well.

COVID-19 Vaccines and Prostate Cancer

Do you have questions about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine as a prostate cancer patient or survivor?

Scroll through this page to find the answers you need. Be sure to discuss the vaccines with your treatment team. Continue reading to better understand the newly approved COVID-19 vaccines and how they could impact you.

What is an Emergency Use Authorization?

Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) allows the vaccine to be used when currently available evidence indicates that the potential benefits of the vaccine outweigh the potential risks. An EUA is not the same as a full FDA approval. The vaccines that were given an EUA continue to be studied in clinical trials for safety, length of effectiveness, and long-term side effects.

If I Receive the Vaccine, Do I Still Need to Wear a Mask and Social Distance?

Because many specific aspects around the disease transmission are still unknown for COVID-19, infectious disease experts recommend to continue social distancing and mask wearing even after receiving the vaccine. As a prostate cancer patient, your immune system may be compromised, making it even more important to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from infectious disease.

Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Those who have or have had prostate cancer can get vaccines. Several factors should be discussed with your treatment team, including your prostate cancer diagnosis, your current treatment plan, and how your immune system is functioning. Since the success of a vaccine depends on an immune system response, every situation and patient is different.

How do the Available COVID-19 Vaccines Work?

The Pfizer/BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. mRNA is genetic material use a genetic code from the virus, which gives your body’s cells instructions for making copies of the spike proteins found on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These proteins stimulate an immune response, producing antibodies and developing memory cells that will recognize and respond if the body is infected with the actual virus. mRNA vaccines are a somewhat new technology, but they are also being studied in influenza, rabies, and Zika virus vaccines, as well as in some cancers.

A third vaccine option is available from Johnson & Johnson/Janssen. This vaccine is different from the other two and is called a “carrier” vaccine. This type of vaccine uses a scientifically developed, inactive, adenovirus (an adenovirus is a very common virus that, if active, can cause colds and other illnesses) as a shell to carry genetic code of the spike protein to the body’s cells. The engineered virus and the code cannot make you sick, but once inside your cells, can produce a spike protein to train the body’s immune system to recognize and respond if the body is infected with the actual virus.

I have more questions about the vaccine. Who can I reach out to?

Contact your local health authority or physician, or visit the CDC.gov website for the latest information. For questions around help for any required payments for the COVID-19 vaccine, call the ZERO360 hotline at (844) 244-1309.

Hear from Dr. Mark Moyad for more on the COVID-19 vaccine interactions for prostate cancer patients.

Am I at Risk?

I’m currently in treatment, am I at risk? What if I’m in active surveillance or watchful waiting?

It depends on how advanced your cancer is, which prostate cancer treatments you are using, and other medical conditions you may have (including diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease). Refer to CDC’s resource on people who are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 for more information, and talk to your doctors about any concerns you have about your current treatment.

My doctor has already told me that treatment will impact my immune system. Am I at risk?

Yes. Older adults and people who have underlying conditions have a higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. You need to take extra precautions to minimize your risk from COVID-19.

My prostate cancer is currently undetectable. Am I at risk?

Age and underlying health conditions put you at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and these are factors that often coincide with prostate cancer patients and survivors. But even if you’re not at an elevated risk, the CDC recommends that everyone take practical steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

I recently traveled, or I think I might have come across someone sick with COVID-19 in my local community. Am I at risk?

Call your doctor (before you go to the hospital) if you’ve been in close contact someone who has COVID-19 or if you’ve recently traveled to an area with widespread or active exposure to the disease. The CDC keeps an up-to-date map of verified cases, but one of the challenges is that the disease can take several days or even weeks before a patient shows any COVID-19 symptoms. If you’ve traveled recently, take a look at the CDC’s travelers’ information website.

What Should I Do?

Should I be especially worried?

Don’t panic, but do take the situation seriously. Experts are learning more about COVID-19 by the minute, but one thing is clear: it’s spreading quickly, it’s most dangerous for people who are older and/or have weakened immune systems, and there’s no cure on the immediate horizon. Keep an eye on the CDC’s constantly updated summary of the situation.

I’m a caregiver or family member of a prostate cancer patient. What should I do to help?

Especially if your loved ones are in a high-risk population — weakened immune system, advanced age — help them avoid potential exposure (“social distancing”) by doing the shopping and other away-from-home tasks on their behalf. Remind them to follow the CDC best practices, particularly the ones about washing hands, practicing “social distancing,” and disinfecting surfaces. Technology can be a big help to avoid feeling isolated, and many large gatherings are shifting to online platforms like YouTube, videoconferencing, and social media. See if your loved ones need help getting set up and connected to these services, and encourage them to join groups like ZERO Connect to stay in touch with a larger community.

I haven’t been tested, but I feel like I’m coming down with something, and I wonder if it’s COVID-19. What should I do?

Compare your symptoms to the CDC’s list of COVID-19 symptoms, and call your doctor before coming in for medical attention. Experts are continuing to learn about the disease, so more symptoms may be discovered, but these will always be up-to-date on the CDC website.

I’m not sick, but should I go ahead and self-quarantine anyway? The news says I should do one thing and posts on social media are saying another. What should I do?

Even as people have the best of intentions for keeping others informed, COVID-19 is a very new disease and the situation keeps evolving. Always rely on official sources of information: the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and your doctor.

I have a doctor’s appointment that’s being conducted via a telemedicine option. What can I expect?

In this video, Dr. Jonathan Rubenstein explains what patients can expect via a telemedicine visit or check-up. In another video, Dr. Rubenstein also explains why telehealth visits are beneficial right now. You can read more about it in ZERO’s Guide to Telemedicine.

What should I do to prepare in case there’s an outbreak in my community? How can I prepare my home and family when it seems like toilet paper and other essentials have suddenly disappeared from the store!

First, don’t panic. It’s completely natural to fear the unknown, and unfortunately there’s much we’re still learning about the disease, but there are concrete steps we can all take to face these challenges without creating new ones in the process. Second, do take the necessary precautions to get your home ready, clean and disinfect, and stock up on needed supplies without buying a year’s supply. The American College of Emergency Physicians guide is a great summary of how to prepare for the disease: practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, clean surfaces that get touched regularly (most household cleaners can kill the virus), limit your exposure to crowded spaces, get rest, eat well, and make sure you have two weeks of supplies just in case you start to feel sick. Following the CDC’s recommendation surrounding cloth face coverings, use this link to watch the U.S. Surgeon General make a cloth face covering from household supplies and explore the CDC’s guide to wearing, cleaning, and creating cloth face coverings using both a sew and no sew method.  For a more in-depth guide, check out the CDC’s sections on getting your home ready, protecting your family, and frequently asked questions about community outbreaks.

What does COVID-19 mean for current or upcoming cancer clinical trials?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a new webpage of information to help address questions patients and caregivers may have about the impact of COVID-19 on FDA-regulated clinical trials. The webpage is a source of information for patients during this time of crisis. For additional questions you may have, please contact the FDA’s Patient Affairs Staff at 301-796-8460 or email patientaffairs@fda.hhs.gov.

I’ve been tested and confirmed to have COVID-19. What should I do?

Always follow the CDC’s updated instructions for those who have COVID-19.

How can I help prostate cancer patients in need during this outbreak?

Consider donating to the ZERO COVID-19 Support Fund. All donations will provide patients in need with immediate support through ZERO360.

Should I wear a mask?

Masks have been proven to help slow the spread of COVID-19. By wearing a mask, you are helping to keep immunocompromised individuals safe. Be sure to check your area’s local guidance on mask wearing. You can purchase a ZERO mask for only $10 here! 

I’m a cancer caregiver and want to help right now. Can I donate blood?

In most cases, as long as you have been symptom-free for the past 14 days, blood donations are permitted. Many blood donation facilities have increased their safety and hygiene protocols due to COVID-19. Click here to read more on blood donation during COVID-19 from the American Red Cross.

I’m an advanced prostate cancer on PROVENGE®. Should I delay or postpone my treatment?

Most mononuclear cell collections for PROVENGE® are performed at American Red Cross sites, which have increased their hygiene and safety efforts during COVID-19. Talk to your physician about treatment options and a responsible path forward. For more information, call 1-877-336-3736.

About COVID-19

How are prostate cancer patients faring during COVID-19?

Like many other individuals, prostate cancer patients are struggling with feelings of isolation, fear, and uncertainty during COVID-19. ZERO has conducted two surveys — one in spring and one in summer — to gain more insights on the prostate cancer experience during COVID-19. Read the results of the spring survey here, and the summer survey here.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Again, the situation is changing rapidly as experts get more information about the disease, so look to the CDC’s symptoms page for the latest. Based on what is known from early cases abroad (as well as similar coronaviruses like MERS), COVID-19 behaves similarly to the flu, causing fever, cough, body aches, chills, and shortness of breath. If you develop difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face, seek medical attention immediately, as these are the signs of severe disease that can be fatal. The American College of Emergency Physicians guide has a quick summary of ways to prepare for the disease.

Where should I turn for more information?

Keep an eye on ZERO’s update page for more information how the outbreak is affecting the prostate cancer community. Otherwise, turn to the CDC for the latest news and guidance. It is also recommended to follow your local public health department to receive updates on how the pandemic is directly affecting your area.