Your health is important, even during a pandemic. If you notice a change or a new symptom that could indicate cancer, please contact your primary care provider immediately and don’t wait for the end of COVID-19. At Women’s College Hospital, safety is our top priority and we’re open for in-person appointments. If you don’t feel comfortable coming in, we are also offering telephone and virtual visits.
What symptoms can be cause for concern?
- New lump in your breast or under your armpit
- Persistent change in the shape or size of your breast
- Nipple suddenly points inward and stays that way
- Bloody discharge from a nipple
- Persistent breast fullness, skin irritation, nipple pain or redness
- Vaginal bleeding that is heavy or occurring between periods
- Vaginal bleeding especially after menopause
- A lump in your pelvis or abdomen
- The need to urinate often or an urgent need to do so
- Feeling full after a small meal or loss of appetite, heartburn, gas, indigestion or nausea
- A lot of pressure in your pelvis or abdomen
- A cough that gets worse or that doesn’t stop after four weeks
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Ongoing chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing or coughing
- Blood in mucous that is coughed up from your lungs
- Have chest infections like bronchitis or pneumonia that do not improve or keep coming back
Is it safe to visit Women’s College Hospital during COVID-19?
At Women’s College Hospital (WCH), your safety and the safety of our physicians and staff is a priority. Minimizing the number of people that come into our hospital during the pandemic is critical to reduce infection transmission.
To keep you safe, we have several protocols in place. It's essential that everyone who enters the hospital follow strict infection prevention and control practices, including but not limited to hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, screening for signs and symptoms of illness, and the use of face masks as required.
Along with other infection prevention and control measures, healthcare organizations have placed limitations on the number of people allowed within the hospital environment during the pandemic. These limitations reduce exposure to potentially infectious individuals and promote the safety of patients, healthcare providers, staff and the public. Adhering closely to these measures, WCH is open. We encourage you to book an appointment should you need to speak with your healthcare provider to discuss any cancer-related concerns.
Should I wait until COVID-19 is over to book an appointment with my primary care provider?
Health care needs, specifically cancer concerns, should not be put aside because of COVID-19 -- they are more important now than ever. We encourage you to pay close attention to changes in your health, monitor any new symptoms and be proactive if something doesn’t look or feel right.
Our Breast Centre, Familial Ovarian Cancer Clinic (FOCC) and FOCC-Aftercare Clinics, and Gynecology Clinic are open for in-person, telephone or virtual appointments, along with our Family Practice Health Centre. If you are a patient at WCH experiencing any new symptoms, please make an appointment with your primary care provider to address your concerns.
If your family physician is not at WCH or is not offering services, The Ontario College of Family Physicians has put together this helpful resource to help you access the care you need. Options include finding a walk-in clinic in your neighbourhood, connecting with a doctor at the Ontario Virtual Care Clinic and/or finding a family doctor if you don’t already have one.
What are my options for booking an appointment at Women’s College Hospital?
WCH is open for in-person visits with an appointment to help with any cancer concerns that have been identified by you at home, on imaging or through family history. To learn what you can expect when visiting our hospital, please click here. Telephone and virtual visits are also available.
Is Women’s College Hospital wheelchair accessible?
Yes, WCH is fully accessible and all clinics have wheelchair-accessible washrooms.
In accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), WCH is committed to providing inclusive and responsive goods and services in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of all persons with disabilities. To ensure that our services are accessible to everyone, we will enable access to assistive devices, including, but not limited to, wheelchairs, hearing devices and accessible beds. We also welcome those partnered with a service animal or support person.
Who does Women’s College Hospital treat?
At WCH, we are committed to promoting the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion to ensure no individual or group is overlooked during and after COVID-19. We treat all patients regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, religion, income, age or education.
I’m currently undergoing cancer treatment. How can I stay safe during COVID-19?
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and have started treatment, follow these tips to help reduce your exposure:
- Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes and mouth, as these are areas where the virus can enter your system.
- Prioritize hand hygiene and wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If you don’t have access to soap and water, please use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid contact with those who are sick or unwell, who have recently been exposed to COVID-19 or who have newly travelled to a high-risk area or country.
- Using a disinfectant wipe, clean items you touch often, including light switches, doorknobs and your mobile phone.
- Avoid crowds and any unnecessary physical contact, including hugging, kissing and hand shaking.
- If you need to go out in public, wear a mask and stay six feet apart from others.
- Avoid non-essential outings, including unnecessary travel and in-person social gatherings.
- Connect with your healthcare team to identify periods in your treatment where you’re at greater risk of infection so you can plan your activities accordingly.
For more on what you need to know about COVID-19 and cancer, please visit: cancercareontario.ca
Are there strategies to cope with anxiety and cancer during COVID-19?
- You may be experiencing a wide range of emotions. Take time to identify them and take a moment to tune into your body and notice how you are feeling. Often accepting the distress is the quickest way to feel calmer.
- Focus on what is within your control, such as exercising, eating well, seeking and offering support. It may be helpful to create a list.
- Practice tolerating the uncertainty. When we experience anxiety, it is usually related to a lack of control. Remind yourself that uncertainty is a part of life, but it will pass.
- Challenge any negative automatic thoughts. Distinguish fact from fear.
- Create a philosophy for how you are going to approach your cancer trajectory. For example, creating a mantra can help with frame of mind.
- Build structure into your everyday routine. Include a combination of tasks and pleasures as both can provide a sense of purpose and a feeling of mastery.
- Develop a Self-Care Plan. For example, document all of the activities that give you joy such as listening to music, journaling, taking a bath, etc.
- If you are feeling low and do not feel like doing anything, try the opposite approach. Don’t think - just do. Go outside for a walk.
- Start a daily gratitude practice that focuses on what went well in the day. What are you grateful for? At the same time, start a daily breathing practice to help you relax.
Get all of the information you can about your cancer. This might mean reaching out to your healthcare team and reading information from reputable and credible sites like the Canadian Cancer Society.
Where can I access additional information?
- For cancer and COVID-19 resources and webinars developed by the Canadian Cancer Society, please click here.
- For questions about cancer and COVID-19, speak with an Information Specialist at the Cancer Information Helpline by clicking here.
- To connect with others within the Canadian Cancer Society’s online community, please click here.
- For psychosocial support, please contact The Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers social worker, Emma Rinaldo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416.323.7330
- For peer support, please contact The Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers and Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support specialist, Kate Mlodzik at email@example.com