Cancer-related COVID-19 FAQs

The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB offers the following answers to many frequently asked questions for UAB cancer patients about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19:

 

What should patients with cancer do to protect themselves from COVID-19?

Cancer treatment may weaken the immune system. The immune system helps fight off infections. Cancer patients are among those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. UAB Medicine encourages cancer patients to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for people who need to take extra precautions. These recommendations can be found here.

What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19 or am showing possible symptoms?

You have several options for testing if you think you may have COVID-19. You may call the 24/7 Alabama COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-264-2256 for testing site locations and the hours of operation of those locations. In partnership with the Jefferson County Department of Health, UAB has also opened an appointment-based testing center, which is open every day from 9-11:15 a.m.

Patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can call 205-975-1881 for screening between 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. If patients meet the screening criteria, they will be provided an appointment time at UAB’s drive-through testing center. Patients must have an appointment to be tested.

Furthermore, please use UAB Medicine’s symptom tracker at HelpBeatCOVID19.org to report your health status and symptoms, even if you are feeling healthy and especially if you have any underlying medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. Logging your symptoms daily will help us serve you better and gain additional insight on tracking COVID-19 in our community.

How should I proceed with my cancer care if I have confirmed or suspected COVID-19?

If you have an upcoming cancer appointment or other outpatient appointment at UAB and you have confirmed or suspected COVID-19, please do not come to UAB before receiving special instructions from your UAB care team. Please call the UAB Cancer Line at 205-801-9034 prior to your appointment for instructions. Your health and safety is our No. 1 priority.

If you are experiencing a true medical emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. For nonemergency urgent care – if you have COVID-19 or think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 – please DO NOT go to the emergency room or come to UAB Medicine outpatient clinics for any reason. Instead, please contact your primary care doctor or call UAB HealthFinder at 205-934-9999 or toll-free at 1-800-822-8816 for instructions.

Should I be wearing a face mask?

The CDC recommends that you wear a face mask or cloth face covering when you may be in close contact with others. Please understand that wearing a covering or mask is not a substitute for social distancing. It is still very important to stay at least 6 feet away from others.

UAB Medicine encourages patients and visitors to wear face coverings in our facilities. If you are instructed by your care team to come into the clinic for your appointment, please bring a face covering.

The CDC has instructions for making your own cloth face mask, including sewn and no-sew versions, which are posted online here.

What is UAB doing to protect its cancer patients and staff?

UAB Medicine cares for patients with complex health conditions, so we have expertise in infection prevention and control and in treating patients with infections. We are working hard to make sure that staff, patients, and their families are protected during this time. UAB Medicine encourages the use of face masks for patients who enter our hospital and clinic locations, we perform temperature checks at all entry points, and we established separate patient care areas in The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital to evaluate patients with possible COVID-19 symptoms. Many of our outpatient departments are using UAB eMedicine online telehealth visits (phone or video) to reduce foot traffic in our hospitals and clinics and to help flatten the curve. Finally, the UAB Environmental Services team is working around the clock to make sure our facilities are disinfected and remain clean for everyone.

Will cancer patients be safe in the clinic or hospital if UAB is treating COVID-19 patients?

UAB Medicine is doing everything possible to keep our patients safe during this time. Specific measures have been taken to isolate patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are suspected of having the virus. This applies to our inpatient hospital units and our outpatient clinics in The Kirklin Clinic.

How will I know if my appointment needs to be rescheduled or cancelled?

For patients receiving cancer treatments such as infusion or radiation therapy, UAB Medicine is still here to serve you and your treatment needs. Your care team members are discussing your care plan to determine which treatments can be changed to oral medication or injection alternatives, which appointments can be done remotely using UAB eMedicine online telehealth visits (phone or video), and what care may be safely delayed or cancelled..

If you have an upcoming cancer-related appointment, please expect your care team to contact you by phone, mail, or Patient Portal message prior to your appointment. If you have not been contacted by a UAB Medicine cancer care team member or have questions related to an upcoming appointment, please call the UAB Cancer Line at 205-801-9034.

Please contact your cancer care team for more information related to your specific treatment.

I have to drive a long distance to UAB for my cancer appointment. Is it safe to visit in person, or are there remote alternatives?

When possible, UAB Medicine is providing high-quality care to our cancer patients remotely using online telehealth services. Your care team members are discussing your care plan to determine if your appointment may be done remotely with a UAB eMedicine online telehealth visit (phone or video).

If you have an upcoming cancer-related appointment, please expect your care team to contact you by phone, mail, or Patient Portal message prior to your appointment. If you have not been contacted by a UAB Medicine cancer care team member or have questions related to an upcoming appointment, please call the UAB Cancer Line at 205-801-9034.

I need to travel to UAB Medicine to participate in a cancer clinical trial. Is it still safe to do so?

Patients enrolled in cancer clinical trials should contact your cancer care team for information related to your specific clinical trial.

I heard that UAB Medicine is limiting the number of visitors at its hospital and clinic locations. Does this apply to appointments for cancer care?

For the safety of our staff, patients, and their families, UAB Medicine has implemented strict visitation guidelines at our hospital and clinic locations. This includes limitations on the number of visitors who can accompany patients on their visits.

If you are a cancer patient receiving infusion therapy at The Kirklin Clinic, please note that no visitors are allowed to accompany you into the infusion bay. If you are a cancer patient who needs special assistance, only one caregiver may accompany you to your visit. We encourage both you and your caregiver to wear a mask to your visit and to practice social distancing while in the waiting area, remaining at least 6 feet from those around you.

Who can I talk to about questions related to my medications?

UAB Medicine’s Nursing Call Center is still here to answer any questions related to your cancer care, including questions about your prescription medications or therapies. The nursing staff is trained to assist you with pain, nausea, vomiting and other side effects that may arise during your treatment. The nursing staff is available to you by phone or in person during any of your treatment visits and can be reached at 205-801-8415.

For some of our cancer patients, your Cancer Navigation Team may also contact you with guidance during this time.

As a cancer patient or family member, I am feeling down, uncertain and stressed as a result of the pandemic. What can I do to find support and keep myself emotionally well?

UAB Medicine is still offering Psychology Oncology counseling services via telemedicine. If you or a loved one is in need of support services, please call the Supportive Care Clinic at 205-801-8624 to schedule a phone or video conferencing appointment with our trained Psycho-Oncology professionals. This service is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at no cost to patients and caregivers.

For some people, spiritual resources or faith can serve as a source of strength, support and comfort. UAB Medicine Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy services are still available for your spiritual needs. Our dedicated Pastoral Care staff are offering several unique services during this time of social distancing and isolation. A prepared list of resources for meditation can be found online here.

You may also email a prayer request to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with “Prayer Request” in the subject line. Those who submit a prayer request will receive an email within 24 hours from one of our chaplains with a written prayer in response.

Are community outreach efforts continuing during this time?

Yes, community outreach and engagement efforts remain ongoing, even as physical offices are closed. Team members from the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center Office of Community Outreach & Engagement continue to provide guidance and outreach to our service areas via phone, email and the Cancer Center website. Our Community Heath Advisors remain on duty in their home counties to provide up-to-date information about ongoing initiatives and developments regarding the current health emergency.

Where can I learn more about how COVID-19 may impact my cancer and treatment?

For more information on UAB’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and your care at UAB, please visit uabmedicine.org/coronavirus.

We encourage you to stay updated on the latest COVID-19 news and recommendations from the CDC, found here.

For cancer-specific resources and updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to visit the American Cancer Society website.

Download the FAQs as a PDF.