Receiving safe cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic caused many people to delay medical care. But you can't wait when it comes to cancer.

And a Bucks County man went through diagnosis and surgery, with Fox Chase Center Center making sure his journey this spring was a safe one.

Tom Nixon is a respiratory therapist who helps diagnose sleep problems in kids.

In late February, he thought back problems from an old injury were flaring up.

The diagnosis stunned him.

"He told me I had cancer - like, kidney cancer. 'I'm like - what!?!'" Nixon recalls.

Nixon was referred to Fox Chase Cancer Center, where Dr. Alexander Kutikov explained he needed surgery - and soon.

Then the pandemic hit.

"I actually thought that surgery would be canceled," says Nixon.

"He had the kind of condition that really couldn't wait," says Dr. Kutikov.

The doctor says there are three pillars in making decisions on cancer care right now:

What kind of cancer does the patient have?

What are the risk cancer will progress?

"What are the chances that you get a very severe COVID infection if you are exposed?" says Dr Kutikov.

Because Fox Chase only deals with cancer, not any general patients, it could keep risks very low.

"Everybody's getting tested to make sure they don't have a COVID infection," he says.

And that's even for small procedures.

"We find ourselves in a very unique situation where we could provide very, very safe cancer care to our patients," says Dr. Kutikov.

There was one sacrifice: Nixon couldn't have any family there, even his wife.

But technology bridged that gap.

"She actually brought up my iPad, and we FaceTimed, that was our communication," he says.

Just like other hospitals, telehealth is now a vital tool for Fox Chase.

Out-of-town patients can skip the drive for routine visits.

But Dr. Kutikov says cancer care often requires face-to-face meetings.

"There's sort of just basic human physical contact that now is truly missing," says Dr. Kutikov.

Nixon's surgery went smoothly, with no radiation or chemo needed afterward.

He's thankful for the steps Fox Chase took to keep him safe.
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