How to Get Ready for a Natural Disaster When You Have Cancer

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If you are a cancer patient or caregiver and you learn a hurricane, wildfire, or other natural disaster 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, or if you should consider having any special equipment on hand.
  • Write down important phone numbers, such as for your doctors, clinic, and pharmacy.
  • 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 during the emergency, call your health care team to talk about options for getting to treatment or 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 sometimes come from unsafe conditions due to 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 need help from the American Cancer Society, call us at 1-800-227-2345
  • 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 pharmacy, doctor, 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.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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