Should Breast Cancer Patients Prepare Differently For Potential Hurricanes?

The short answer is “yes.” Breast cancer patients should prepare for every possible contingency — and differently than they might if they were already healthy. This might seem like a time-consuming burden (and possibly an expensive one, too), but it could save your life. Marian Von-Maszewski, M.D. is an associate medical director of Critical Care at MD Anderson. She recently helped breast cancer patients prepare relevant checklists due to the increased number of tropical storms and hurricanes this past season.

Marian said, “Cancer patients are often at greater risk of contracting an infection. So, try to get everything you need early on to avoid the last-minute crowds in stores. It’s almost impossible to maintain adequate social distancing in those situations. And that could prove to be more dangerous than the storm itself.”

She brings up the important point that while COVID-19 is still a threat, you should keep general social distancing and sanitization precautions in mind when completing any relevant checklist. This is because those with underlying conditions are at greater risk of becoming seriously endangered by COVID-19. Breast cancer is one doozy of an underlying condition.

In order to make sure that you lose as little as possible in the event of a catastrophic natural disaster or storm, you should ensure that homes and vehicles are covered by insurance. Hurricane damage insurance claims can be a hassle when the relevant coverage isn’t just right.

Von-Maszewski added, “Evacuation could pose a risk. Face masks will be especially important if patients have to stay in crowded shelters.”

Those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk during these kinds of natural disasters because of a variety of factors that crop up during or after the event. For example, flooding is common after a hurricane. Standing water can mean an easy source of infection because they are excellent mosquito breeding grounds. Especially bad storms can leave debris that can lead to injury for those who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings.

MD Anderson’s checklist is simple. First and foremost, keep several weeks worth of food and water on hand. In addition, ensure that you have access to needed medications should the worst happen. Another important thing to keep in mind: you might lose access to electronic data if the power goes out for an extended period of time. If this happens, you’ll want to know the medications you need renewed and the proper dosages. Are there medications that need to be refrigerated? Keep enough ice in the freezer so you can transfer it to a heavy duty cooler if the power goes out. 

The final steps include making sure you have the quickest route to the nearest emergency rooms written down. Make sure you have extra gas stored away so you always have enough for a full tank! You’ll want to coordinate with your insurance company to avoid any problems down the road — like when one hospital is covered but another is not.