COVID-19: What the Brain Tumor Community Needs to Know

This information was last updated on December 8, 2020.

A core value of NBTS is, “Patients First,” and as such we are committed to providing helpful, accurate, timely, and reliable content to our community regarding coronavirus (COVID-19). Below is information we have compiled, in one easy to access spot, to help you better understand our response to COVID-19, how to protect yourself and others, and what resources are available for behavioral health support.

As we have seen over these past few weeks, the situation with COVID-19 is fluid and information is at times overwhelming. We will continue to provide to our community facts you can count on as we navigate the road ahead together.

COVID-19 and Brain Tumors – Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 is a novel form of a large family of viruses called coronaviruses. The illness causes flu-like symptoms, with the major complication arising from impacts to the respiratory system.

The disease can spread from person to person, through small droplets from the nose or mouth that may spread when a person coughs or sneezes. Another person may catch COVID-19 by breathing in these droplets or by touching a surface that the droplets have landed on and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Individuals over the age of 60 and those with chronic conditions and/or compromised immune systems are likely at higher-risk for contracting the virus as well as experiencing a more severe illness after infection. Many brain tumor patients, especially malignant brain tumor patients, are considered high-risk, as chemotherapy and radiation can compromise a patient’s immune system, making them more susceptible to COVID-19.

For a comprehensive collection of information regarding COVID-19, visit the National Institutes of Health (NIH) COVID-19 resource page. 

Am I Eligible for the Third Dose/Booster?

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)* COVID-19 Vaccination Advisory Committee has issued the following recommendations based on the latest FDA and CDC decisions.

The following groups should be deemed eligible for a third vaccine dose, also known as a “booster shot”:

Be sure to consult with your provider on all decisions related to your care.

Click here more information on COVID-19 vaccinations for people with cancer.

*NCCN is a nonprofit alliance of 31 leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education.
**Most brain and other CNS tumors are considered solid tumors

How Can I Protect Myself?

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Precautions for avoiding COVID-19 are the same as for other contagious respiratory illnesses, such as influenza (flu).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyday preventive measures to help prevent the spread of respiratory infections, including to:

What Should I Know if I am Currently Receiving Treatment?

If you are receiving treatment for a brain tumor, you may need to travel to your doctor’s office or hospital for medical care. If so, consider these additional precautions, as well as those above:

Consider these other precautions as well:

As health care facilities work to protect their patient populations and staff, you may see restrictions at your treating hospital that include reduced entry points into the hospital, a screening of visitors for possible symptoms of COVID-19, and no visitors under a certain age allowed to enter the building, as examples. You may want to visit the website of your treating hospital or call your treatment team ahead of your next appointment so you are prepared for any changes that await you upon arrival.

Preparing for a Telehealth Appointment

Health care providers are turning to telehealth solutions for conducting certain services remotely. Check with your care team and health insurance provider to see if this is available to you, appropriate for you, and covered within your plan.

If telemedicine is an option for you, below are some tips and suggestions for preparing for a virtual appointment.

For more information visit: National Cancer Institute (NCI) – What should I do about getting treatment?

What Should I Know if I am a Participant in a Clinical Trial?

Call your clinical trial research team and follow their guidance.

Additional Resources:

If I Have Cancer, Am I at Higher Risk of Getting COVID-19?

Some types of cancer and treatments such as chemotherapy can weaken your immune system and may increase your risk of any infection, including COVID-19. During chemotherapy, there will be times in your treatment cycle when you are at increased risk of infection.

Adults and children with serious chronic health conditions, including cancer, are at higher risk of developing more serious complications from contagious illnesses such as COVID-19.

At this time, there is no evidence to support changing or withholding chemotherapy or immunotherapy in patients with cancer. Withholding critical anti-cancer or immunosuppressive therapy is not currently recommended.

For more information visit: National Cancer Institute (NCI) – What People with Cancer Should Know

Should I be Tested for COVID-19

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested:

If you are caring for someone with COVID-19 at home:

There are two kinds of tests available for COVID-19:

For more information on COVID-19 testing visit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Testing Overview.

For more information on caring for someone with COVID-19 visit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Caring for Someone Sick.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

Thanks to a generous donation from Karyopharm Therapeutics, NBTS has a limited number of medical grade masks available for our brain tumor community. If you are in need of some masks, please contact us at

Gatherings and the Holidays

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise across the country, public health authorities are strongly advising that all Americans keep holiday gatherings to smaller groups and, ideally, only other members of your household. This guidance is of particular importance to those who fall into “high-risk” categories, which includes patients whose immune systems are compromised due to treatment they are/have received for a brain tumor. Below are links to more information regarding this advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings
  • World Health Organization (WHO) – Small Public Gatherings
  • Vanderbilt Health has a great article on staying connected with loved ones during what could be a challenging holiday season for many, complete with creative tips to make the most out of a less-than-ideal situation.

    Medical and Treatment Developments for COVID-19

    For the latest science-based information regarding COVID-19 and the products we use, the food we eat, and the medicine we take, visit the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    COVID-19 Vaccine Information

    Welcome news of positive data emerging from clinical trials on potential COVID-19 vaccines has offered light at the end of the dark tunnel that has been the coronavirus pandemic. For information on potential vaccines, how they work, and how they might be distributed and administered we’ve compiled the links below.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Frequently Asked Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Facts About COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – 8 Things to Know About Vaccine Planning
  • World Health Organization (WHO) – The Push for a COVID-19 Vaccine
  • COVID-19 Testing

    As cases are expected to continue to rise, understanding when, how, and where to receive a COVID-19 test is critical. Information on these questions and others related to testing are answered in the resources linked below.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Coronavirus Self-Checker
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – COVID-19 Testing Overview
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – What Your Test Results Mean
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Viral Test for COVID-19
  • Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health

    A stressful situation like an infectious disease outbreak that requires social distancing, quarantine, or isolation can cause a variety of reactions in different people. You may feel:

    Ways to Cope with Stress:

    If you or a loved one experience any of these reactions for 2 to 4 weeks or more, contact your health care provider or one of the resources below. For more information on COVID-19 and behavioral health, visit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Coping with Stress.

    Other resources related to COVID-19 and anxiety can be found with these links:

    Resources for Helping our Children Cope During COVID-19

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

    SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline Toll-Free: 1-800-985-5990 (English and Español)
    SMS: Text TalkWithUs to 66746
    SMS (Español): “Hablanos” al 66746
    TTY: 1-800-846-8517
    Website (English):
    Treatment Locator Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator Website:

    Information for Parents of Children with Cancer

    Peer to Peer Connections During COVID-19

    Financial Assistance Resources

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