Many people are convinced that cancer is a fatal diagnosis, even though many of its forms are amenable to successful treatments. Having learned about cancer, some people prefer to go abroad for treatment, where at least 95% of all patients with cancer can successfully get rid of the disease. However, the COVID pandemic has turned millions of lives around, complicating the procedure of receiving cancer care. Fortunately, having a medical visa allows undergoing treatment in the best world hospitals even during the lockdown. Booking Health offers help in issuing medical visa and extending medical visa without leaving the country, if necessary.
- The state of cancer care during the coronavirus pandemic
- Treatment for patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic
- What to do if during a pandemic you suspect or are diagnosed with cancer?
- Benefits of cancer treatment in Germany during the lockdown
- How to undergo treatment in Germany
- How the Booking Health can help
The state of cancer care during the coronavirus pandemic
Receiving proper cancer care has always been a quite complex process. However, since news about the COVID pandemic has shaken the world, many patients with cancer became anxious and confused about how exactly they should start or continue their treatments. And not only patients are confused with the lockdown news, but doctors as well.
The current pandemic is complicating cancer care. With the huge number of infected patients worldwide and the rapidly growing number of newly diagnosed patients, COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge for healthcare systems. However, it is also important to understand that mortality from other diseases such as cancer remains similarly high. Due to the coronavirus crisis, healthcare professionals are facing the need to completely reorganize healthcare systems not only to deal effectively with the COVID-19 but also to do so while continuing to treat patients with other medical conditions.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is challenging oncologists to completely reorganize cancer care to minimize hospital attendance and hospitalizations, as well as to reduce the incidence of complications, without compromising treatment outcomes. Since COVID-19 is a new disease, there is often a lack of scientific advice, but the doctors still have to inevitably make very hard decisions regarding other types of treatments.
There are many aspects that hospital management must take into account to be able to ensure continuity of treatment of cancer patients during this time: the healthcare delivery process, skilled personnel, hospital capacity, research activities, and regional and national collaboration to share the complexity of cancer care.
Given the lack of scientific news at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the measures taken were based on informed assumptions and expert opinions, taking into account information about other infectious diseases. Because oncologists are accustomed to making informed decisions based on news from large clinical trials, the reality in which they have to decide almost immediately what is most important and what fades into the background may seem like rough medical practice.
Still, hospitals do everything possible to maintain high standards of cancer care for patients while addressing shortages of personal protective equipment, patient accommodation, staff shortages, and many other challenges.
In facilities that specialize in cancer care, the main policy is to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the hospital and to ensure that sufficient treatment capacity is available to undertake emergency cancer surgery or to control the side effects of systemic cancer therapy. This would allow local general hospitals to transfer cancer patients to centers for treatment and focus their efforts on treating COVID-19 patients in addition to those with other urgent medical conditions. Thus, the cancer centers are directly dependent on cooperation with local general hospitals and the absence of patients infected with COVID-19 within the institution.
However, it is extremely important to note that there are differences in the specific strategies of hospitals, which are partly a result of the fact that healthcare in different countries is organized differently, and also because the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic follows different scenarios.
Treatment for patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic
Even during the pandemic, medical care for cancer patients during lockdown should be provided in full. That is why medical visas are valid even during the lockdown, so patients have the chance to visit specialized healthcare institutions.
However, the lockdown has created other problems for cancer patients. And although the basic recommendations (social distancing, hand washing, wearing gloves and masks) are not so difficult to follow, planned treatment forces many patients to interrupt the lockdown regimen.
According to the news in medical research, the cancellation of treatment for patients with cancer is much more dangerous than the possible coronavirus infection.
All cancer patients can be divided into three clinical groups.
The first one is patients in whom the malignant tumor is confirmed for the first time and the patient should be treated.
The second type is patients who are in the process of treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Depending on the specifics of each case, is it possible to postpone the course. These risks are assessed by the doctor on a case-by-case basis.
Finally, the third group of patients with cancer is those who have undergone treatment, and who at the moment have no obvious signs of the disease. They require regular follow-up examinations, and in case of the disease recurrence – continued treatment. Such patients should follow the lockdown regimen, to begin with. There are many such patients, and they should follow all recommended measures of lockdown. And in case of any concerns or symptoms, it is necessary to contact a doctor. If people with cancer do not require urgent treatment, then it is recommended that patients postpone their visit to the hospital.
In the meantime, if a person is young and healthy, does not have concomitant diseases and the body can resist infection, it can pass asymptomatically, and such people will develop an immune response. But if a person has health problems, for example, chronic diseases of the lungs, cardiovascular system, and diabetes mellitus, there is the risk of aggravation of these disorders and even of a fatal outcome as a result of their decompensation.
Coronavirus is from the same group of respiratory viruses as influenza which means that it causes acute inflammation of the respiratory system. The changes caused by a coronavirus in the lung tissue are more severe.
The main difference is that humanity has not experienced a virus of this type yet, which is why its contagiousness and the degree of infectiousness are so high. And since a small number of people have recently been found to be immune to COVID-19, most people are at risk of getting sick. How a person will fight the disease, depends on the body's immunity.
Often, during and after the cancer treatment the immune system begins to work differently (sometimes even starts being too aggressive, which is also not very good for the body). People with lung cancer are at high risk regarding the existing COVID-19 pandemic. This group also includes people undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy. Patients who have undergone bone marrow or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation are also at risk. The immune system also does not work well in the presence of certain cancers, for example, leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
As a result, a person becomes susceptible to infectious diseases or they are likely to be more severe.
It is believed that cancer patients have affected immunity. And in many cancer patients, the tumor is the result of disrupted immunity. For example, if a person has a local tumor process, with no damage to cellular immunity, then he is not susceptible to infectious diseases. But in the elderly or debilitated people oncology can be a manifestation of the bad state of immunity. Therefore, all cancer patients are at high risk of infection and fatal outcomes.
Patient Oksana, Russia. Not so long ago, I got sick. The doctors in Russia said that they could not cure me. I have received help and found Booking Health on the Internet. Half an hour later, the manager Tania Meyer called me back. We sent her all the medical records and a few days later she offered a choice of cities and hospitals in Germany, which provide stem cell therapy.
I received the program and the cost of my treatment. The company made a condition to pay before signing the contract. The amount was rather big and, like any person, I was worried. I paid and received a contract. Then the manager Oksana Stark took care of me. She further directed our actions, answered phone calls and e-mail at any time of the day. We would not have come to Germany without her help, since we did not have visas and visa application centers did not work because of the coronavirus. Thanks to the assistance of Booking Health and its employee Oksana Stark, we received a visa upon arrival in Germany, at the airport. I want to kindly express my deep gratitude to Oksana Stark, who was in touch with me throughout the trip. I could call her on any issue and settle everything. She is a kind and friendly person, who was interested in how we settled down, gave advice. Even after returning to Russia, she called and asked about my health. Many thanks to Elena Sergeeva, Director General of Booking Health GmbH, and managers Tanie Meyer and Oksana Stark for organizing the trip for treatment and a chance for recovery.
What to do if during a pandemic you suspect or are diagnosed with cancer?
Of course, a patient needs to go to oncologists for treatment, because the coronavirus causes mortality in up to 1% of cases, while the percentage of mortality in the case of the neglected cancer treatment is much higher. Naturally, the rules of social distancing, masks wearing, hand hygiene are common for everyone who is at risk of infection, and they must be followed very accurately during the start of any kind of cancer care.
If a pandemic overtooks patients at a time of receiving treatment, then, of course, cancer care must be continued, because, again, the risk of cancer aggravation exceeds the risk of developing coronavirus disease.
If a person has already been treated for cancer, then all the general rules must be followed regardless of whether six months have passed since the moment of treatment start or five years. The resistance to COVID-19 in patients with cancer or the ones who have already been treated may be lower than in those who have never had oncology. But again, it all depends on a person's individual ability to recover.
If the cancer was diagnosed in the past and is in the stage of remission now, then the immune system should gradually return to normal state. For example, the European Society for Medical Oncology believes that the risk is increased during the first three months after chemotherapy or other cancer treatment. Fatigue and fever can be not only symptoms of the coronavirus, but also a complication of treatment. However, it is better to discuss this issue with an oncologist.
Psychologists say that people with cancer have an advantage during this difficult time, as they have experience of dealing with extreme emotional stress caused by uncertainty. Cancer patients have the skills to overcome anxiety more easily. Besides, they are more responsible for and aware of their health condition.
The treatment of cancer remains more significant to patients than the hypothetical threat of contracting a new virus, although cancer patients are still at risk, as the infection can be more severe in such patients than in healthy people. Therefore, it is extremely necessary to act right away on any arising complications or concerns.
Basically, no matter how difficult the situation with lockdown is, the cancer centers continue to work and treat in compliance with all safety standards. The very tactics of treatment does not change. The American hospitals for cancer treatment have already generalized that no type of treatment is the preferred option during the coronavirus pandemic. Besides, compliance with general epidemiological requirements remains important.
Recovery stories during the lockdown-2020
Benefits of cancer treatment in Germany during the lockdown
Since September of 2020, the news that the situation has actually worsened shook the world. More and more countries go to lockdown, and some of the areas are now considered highly dangerous.
For instance, India remains on lockdown since June. The United Arab Emirates is on lockdown since September. In Hungary, since late September more than 10 districts have been added to the red zone list. In Denmark, the Region Hovedstaden has been added to the red zone list since September 23rd. In the UK and Ireland approximately 7 areas are considered highly dangerous. The whole USA is on lockdown since the 3rd of June, with more than 8 million people infected.
Many countries have closed their borders during the coronavirus pandemic due to the severe spread of the disease. Some of the hospitals on the national level even refuse to conduct treatment for patients with cancer, explaining it with prioritizing the treatment of patients with the diagnosed COVID-19.
We all clearly understand that there’s a need for the urgent treatment of other diseases, specifically for cancer. But what to do if hospitals in your country ignore this need, refuse to provide treatment, and your region is in the red zone?
Treatment in Germany with the most qualified doctors, up-to-date equipment, and modern methods of cancer care remains available to you. All you need is to issue the medical visa.
The advantages of cancer treatment in Germany have been thoroughly analyzed by Booking Health, based on many years of experience in organizing the treatment of patients with cancer.
Here’s why treatment in Germany might be an option for you:
- The possibility of an emergency appointment with leading German oncologists
- Cancer care in specialized hospitals for oncology
- Prompt treatment start after confirming the diagnosis
- Precise pathological diagnostics at certified medical facilities
- Adequate (if possible, sparing) therapy, taking into account the age and psychological characteristics of the patient, corresponding to the stage and aggressiveness of the disease
- Interdisciplinary cooperation of oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, chemotherapists, specialists in the field of radiation therapy, psycho-oncologists
- Strict adherence to international treatment protocols following therapy optimization studies
- Unique programs to prevent severe side effects of treatment, in particular with the use of gene therapy protocols
- Regimens for preventing and treating recurrent disease
- The individually tailored treatment plan for patients with cancer
- The high survival rate, inclusion in innovative clinical trials
Patient Alla, Russia. Hello! I contacted Booking Health because I was diagnosed with a tumor in my chest. From the very beginning, we had a very warm relationship with the company.
A medical advisor Svetlana Scholz presented the medical program in detail, provided information about the hospital and about the doctor who would treat me. She was very responsive during our conversation. It was clear that she was imbued with my problem and reacted with understanding to all my questions and requests.
I am also very grateful to Oksana Stark. She helped organize my arrival in Germany despite the fact that I did not have a visa, since visa application centers in Russia were closed due to the pandemic. Since I was going alone, I was very worried, but thanks to the round-the-clock support from Oksana, I really felt that I was in good hands and that they would take care of me in Germany. There were moments when Oksana with all her heart wanted to help me even in those issues that did not concern her work, which moved me to tears. Thank you!!!
Many thanks to the driver Mark, who was waiting for me near the airport, despite the fact that they were making a visa for me for several hours.
I would like to thank my coordinating interpreter Irina. She attended all the appointments with the doctor, supported me and solved all the issues that arose in the hospital.
After I had the operation, both Irina and Oksana were constantly in touch with me, interested in my health and whether I liked everything in the hospital. Even after my discharge from the hospital, when I returned back to my native country, they still continued keeping in touch with me! We have established a very friendly and warm relationship with the company and no doubt I want to recommend it to everyone who really cares about the result and high quality service.
Thanks again to Booking Health!!!
How to undergo treatment in Germany
Citizens of the countries of the European Union and the Schengen area can travel to Germany without hindrance. Other citizens can only travel for a serious reason. If you are not an EU citizen, you still can enter Germany for treatment of the urgent medical conditions.
"Urgent medical condition" includes the following:
- Treatment can only be carried out in Germany, and not in the patient's home country
- Treatment in Germany has already begun and should be continued there
- Treatment refusal is life-threatening or causes significant long-term damage to human health
The listed reasons must be supported by appropriate documentation.
Lockdown is mandatory for people traveling from countries that the German Robert Koch Institute classifies as risk areas. Anyone who has traveled to such a country within 14 days before entering Germany must go to lockdown for two weeks. The list of such countries is updated constantly.
Therefore, if you are planning to travel to Germany, before leaving you need to find out if the country you are in is on this list. This also concerns people returning from travel. The specific lockdown rules are developed by the federal states of Germany.
Lockdown can be avoided by those who have a negative coronavirus test result or a medical certificate. In both cases, results must be received no earlier than 48 hours prior to arrival.
All confirmations about the urgency of your arrival in Germany are issued by a German hospital and the doctor specifically based on the review of your medical documentation (translations of medical records, tests, imaging examinations). If, after arriving for treatment, the severity of your diagnosis is not confirmed, then your case will be re-qualified as an outpatient, which will affect the duration and plan of treatment.
Each hospital that issues an invitation for treatment or confirmation of the need for treatment, helping to obtain the medical visa, determines the safety requirements (7- or 14-day of self-isolation or the absence of the need to self-isolate by presenting an up-to-date certificate from the homeland about a negative test for COVID-19, as well as a certificate from the test taken in German airport of arrival).
If you do not have a valid medical visa, then after the payment for treatment, you will receive an invitation, with which you apply to the German consular authorities to issue you an entry medical visa.
Before traveling to Germany:
- The receiving clinic confirms the medical necessity and possibility of treatment.
- For a patient and one accompanying person coming from risk areas without symptoms of COVID-19, a negative COVID-19 test result is required to enter Germany. The test result must be dated no earlier than 48 hours before entering Germany and must be submitted to the medical institution at the time of the first appointment.
To obtain a medical visa, a person should confirm the severity of the health condition, including cancer. All embassies accept documents and issue medical visas, indicating that this is an urgent treatment. For this, the confirmation about the medical condition from a local doctor is needed.
The time of the request review is individual for each case. If the country's embassy is closed, Booking Health helps resolve this issue through the federal police.
To obtain a medical visa, you need an invitation from the clinic, where it is mentioned that the clinic is expecting the patient and that this is an urgent treatment, the date of admission and the duration of stay, confirmation of payment for treatment and a letter from the attending physician. Booking Health can organize everything from the above.
If it is necessary to extend the medical visa, to continue the treatment, it can be extended locally and Booking Health can issue this as well.
How the Booking Health can help
It is not easy to self-organize treatment in Germany. It requires certain knowledge and experience. Thus, it is safer, easier, and less stressful to shift some responsibility onto a medical tourism agency.
As the largest and most transparent medical tourism agency in the world, Booking Health has up-to-date information on cancer care during the lockdown.
If you want to undergo treatment in Germany, Booking Health will provide the following services:
- The communication with the chosen hospital
- The up-to-date information about the overall cost of cancer treatments
- Translation of medical documents
- Help in applying for a medical visa for the patient and accompanying person
- Solving the issues with obtaining a medical visa, in case if the embassy is closed or your request for a medical visa has been declined
- Flight and accommodation booking
- Interpreting services
Booking Health can take on all the issues. You can be free of unnecessary stress, while Booking Health takes care of all organizational aspects.
All you need to do is to leave a request on the Booking Health website and our manager will contact you shortly.
Choose treatment abroad and you will for sure get the best results!
Author: Dr. Nadezhda Ivanisova