If you are a cancer patient or caregiver and you learn a hurricane or other major storm is coming your way, take steps to prepare in advance:
- Make a list of medicines and treatment schedules and store it in a handy place.
- Discuss with your health care team the possibility of getting an extra supply of medicines.
- Check with your health care team to find out who to call if you can't get through to them using your regular methods.
- If you are due for a treatment right after the storm will hit, call your health care team to talk about options for rescheduling.
- Ask your health care team if you should get vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, the flu, pneumococcus, tetanus, or other diseases that can come from unsafe conditions that sometimes stem from natural disasters.
If you've had to evacuate your home or treatment center, or if a storm or natural disaster has changed your treatment plan, follow these tips:
- If you're in a temporary shelter, find out if health care professionals are on site. If so, let them know you have been getting cancer treatment and you need to get in touch with a doctor or hospital. If not, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.
- If you are sick, go to the nearest emergency room.
- Try to keep taking your medicines on schedule. If you don't have your medicines or don't know where they are, try to get in touch with your doctor or clinic, or your health insurance company.
- If you can't get your medical records, write down everything you can remember about your treatment.
- Protect yourself from germs by washing your hands as often as possible and drinking bottled water, or water that has been boiled for a full minute and then cooled.
- Make sure meats are cooked thoroughly and fruits and vegetables are washed in clean water. Don't eat cooked foods that have been left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Keep any cuts or wounds covered with bandages unless your doctor has told you otherwise. Use antibiotic cream every day, if you have it.
- Don't share toothbrushes or eating utensils or cups with anyone else.
- Don't get vaccinations unless a doctor who knows your cancer history says it's OK.
For more information, read "Coping with cancer after a natural disaster: Frequently asked questions for people with cancer and their caregivers" on cancer.org.