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It's important for paramedics to know if you are receiving cancer treatment

Being diagnosed with Cancer is a massive shock.  It affects the ability to function and the psychological impact can be dramatic.  Once within the healthcare environment many often forget how important it is to let the emergency services know that you are receiving treatment for your cancer.  If you have been healthy for your entire life you may not realise the impact on your care, in an emergency, if you are receiving cancer treatments.

We reached out to the paramedic community and asked them "How important is it for a paramedic to know whether someone is undertaking treatment for cancer?"  Here are a few of the responses.

"If they are on chemotherapy there is a risk of neutropenic sepsis. So your infection control needs to be spot on." - Jim K

"They have a very low threshold for considering an infection." - Erin B

"You also need to know where they specialist treatment centre is, what type of chemotherapy they are on and the last time they had treatment.  Every case is unique with most patients or not having a care pathway already in place. You MUST, as a paramedic/Tech consider all care pathways."" - Adi L

"There may be reasons for then to not go to A+E such as them being immuno-compromised from treatment (and at risk of picking up D+V or a cold from the other people there).  Some are on really scary drugs like thalidomide, that comes with warnings that the medication must be handled wearing gloves!" - Danielle C

"It's not just about cancer you need to know if any patient you attend is taking medication or being treated for anything" - Gary B

It can be very risky taking them to A+E, due to the infection risk and their already compromised immune system. I would possibly call a triage team (if possible) at their oncology ward or specialist cancer centre and possibly try to arrange admission via a doctor.  Also, if anything, try to avoid A+E, only unless it is absolutely necessary.  These patients usually have DNAR's in place or advanced care directives/pathways. This may state many things such as:
- wishes to stay at home and not be admitted to hospital under any circumstances
- do not take to hospital unless spoken to a GP
- you may transport if the patients next of kin are okay with it
(There can be many other situations - to name but a few)" - Carn W

These are just some of the comments that came back from the paramedic community. It just goes to show how important it is to be able to inform first responders quickly and accurately the type of medication you are receiving.  The impact on your treatment could be significant.

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