Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

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Managing Cancer Care, Prevention During COVID-19

Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center recently joined with the American Cancer Society to create a webinar offering insight on managing cancer care during the pandemic. John Sweetenham, M.D., Associate Director for Clinical Affairs at Simmons Cancer Center, summarizes the key takeaways and then provides a link to the full webinar.

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COVID-19 Vaccinations: What You Need to Know

UT Southwestern is offering COVID-19 vaccines to eligible individuals, based on state guidelines. Eligible individuals will receive direct communication through their secure MyChart account to schedule vaccination appointments. Supply is limited and dependent on the size and frequency of shipments from the State, both of which can change rapidly. UTSW is prepared to deliver vaccines as quickly as we receive them. Thank you in advance for your patience and cooperation. For more details and updates on eligibility and availability, please visit our vaccination page.

Current evidence indicates approved COVID-19 vaccinations are safe for cancer patients, and experts are encouraging everyone, including those receiving cancer treatments, to receive the vaccine at the earliest opportunity. That said, individuals with known vaccine allergy risks should consult with their medical providers before receiving any COVID-19 vaccination.

It is important to continue following established safety protocols, including wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, and washing your hands frequently – even after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. These precautions will be necessary until public health experts advise otherwise. At this point, it is unclear whether those who are vaccinated could still spread the virus to others.

From all of us at the Simmons Cancer Center and UT Southwestern, thank you for entrusting us with your care. If you have any concerns, please contact your oncology care team.

Safety and Care at Simmons Cancer Center

We have resumed in-person visits and our regard for your safety remains paramount. Safeguards at our main cancer center building in Dallas, at Moncrief Cancer Institute in Fort Worth, and at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Richardson/Plano continue to include:

COVID-19 Chaperone Cancer Center
Clinical chaperones will be available to provide assistance for patients at the entrance and throughout the Simmons Cancer Center, if needed.
  • COVID-19 symptom screenings and no-touch temperature checks are conducted for everyone at designated entrances.
  • Patients, visitors, and staff are required to wear a mask covering over their nose and mouth. If you don’t have a mask with you, one will be provided.
  • We are continuing to ask cancer patients to refrain from bringing a guest or visitor into the buildings to help reduce the risk for cancer patients who are especially vulnerable to infection. Clinical staff are available to provide support and assistance. A caregiver or family member may be able to participate in your appointment through a video or audio connection if needed.
  • Patients scheduled for procedures will be contacted well in advance of their appointments to arrange for COVID-19 testing at our drive-up facility.
  • Patients who test positive for COVID-19 or show active symptoms will not be allowed to proceed beyond the screening station without instructions from a provider.
  • Physical distancing is promoted in waiting areas and throughout our facilities; however, your assistance is needed to help ensure a safe distance is maintained.
  • Increased cleaning guidelines are being followed for all clinical spaces and high-touchpoint areas.

Cancer Care in a Pandemic

Dr. Madhuri Vusirikala, Medical Director of UT Southwestern's Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Program, and one of her patients, Ericka Thompson, join Dr. John Warner to discuss how virtual health appointments have become vital resources in helping cancer patients stay current with their care and feel supported during the COVID-19 health crisis.

Watch more episodes

Virtual visits available

Many of our patients are finding virtual visits, which make it easy to connect with a specialist from the comfort of your home, to be a great substitute for in-person appointments. We will continue to offer these whenever possible. We strongly encourage you to contact us through MyChart or the UT Southwestern Appointment Line (214-645-8300) to see whether a virtual visit is a viable option for you. Our main COVID-19 website is a great source of information as well.

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CDC prevention recommendations

We are also asking patients and visitors to follow steps to prevent the transmission and spread of COVID-19, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Stay at home when you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Maintain social distance between you and others (at least 6 feet).
  • Wear a cloth face cover or mask if you have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.

We know you likely have more questions. Answers to some of the most frequent questions we receive are below, but if you need more specific information about your care or an appointment, please contact us through MyChart.

What should I do if I am in active treatment for cancer?

We encourage you to keep your regularly scheduled appointments. The day before the appointment, a member of your cancer care team will contact you to confirm the details and to screen for COVID-19 infection risks or symptoms. Everyone entering the Simmons Cancer Center will undergo COVID-19 screening and temperature checks via a no-touch thermometer scan. Anyone who has a reading of 100.0°F/37.78°C or higher, or COVID-19 symptoms, will be advised on the best course of action.

What if I am a new patient at Simmons Cancer Center?

We recommend new patients who are scheduled for a pre-clinic consult or test to keep their appointments. As with patients undergoing active treatments, you will be contacted by a member of the cancer care team in advance of your appointment to screen for COVID-19 symptoms. Expect to undergo a temperature check via a no-touch thermometer scan when you arrive at Simmons Cancer Center. Should you have a fever of 100.0°F/37.78°C or higher, or COVID-19 symptoms, our staff will advise you on next steps.

If I am no longer undergoing active therapy, should I reschedule my appointment?

The safest option is to reschedule your follow-up appointment to a later date. We are carefully reviewing records of all our patients and might recommend this through a phone call or MyChart message. If so, we will work with you on rescheduling for a future date. If you decide you’d like to be seen, of course you can keep your appointment, but we might recommend switching to a virtual visit with your provider. If so, we will help you set that up as well.

What if I have an upcoming appointment for imaging or scans?

Your care team will contact you directly to discuss how best to proceed. 

Am I in danger of my cancer coming back if I miss my follow-up appointment?

UT Southwestern staff are contacting patients regarding scheduled follow-up appointments. Your cancer care team will take any risks into consideration and recommend an appropriate time frame for your next appointment. Your health is important to us, so please contact us if you develop any new symptoms between your appointments.

Am I considered immunocompromised if I have had cancer treatment?

If you have had treatment for cancer, it’s possible that your immune system will be impaired and that you will be at a higher risk from COVID-19. Every patient is different, but if you have concerns, please consult your care team.

Is it safe for me to go to the grocery store, travel, see my grandkids, etc.?

We recommend you follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for social distancing, travel, and hand hygiene. We are also asking patients and visitors to our facilities to follow those guidelines to reduce the risk of transmission. They include:

  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Stay at home when you’re sick. 
  • Avoid close contact with people (6 feet), particularly those who are sick.
What do I do if I develop COVID-19 symptoms?

If you are currently undergoing cancer treatment, it is important that you contact us with any new symptoms. Please call our office, 214-645-4673, or send a MyChart message so we can evaluate the best way to care for you during this time. We ask that you don’t come to the clinic without speaking to one of our team members first. If you are a cancer survivor, we recommend contacting your primary care provider for any potential COVID-19 symptoms. 

Will more policies and recommendations change due to COVID-19?

The COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly, and while our procedures might change in the coming weeks our priorities will not – those are to keep you safe, informed, and focused on feeling well. We appreciate your patience, flexibility, and cooperation during this stressful time. If you have additional questions, please continue to use MyChart as a communication channel with your care team. Or call the UT Southwestern Appointment line at 817-676-9117.

For more updates on UT Southwestern's COVID-19 response, click here

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Simmons Cancer Center among top research, care institutions in the nation

The National Cancer Institute and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network have both recognized Simmons Cancer Center as one of the elite centers in the country for patient care, research, and education. 

Simmons Cancer Center is the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in North Texas and one of just five in the entire Southwest. In addition, Simmons Cancer Center is among only 30 U.S. cancer research centers to be designated by the NCI as a National Clinical Trials Network Lead Academic Participating Site. 

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NCCN is a nonprofit alliance of 30 distinguished comprehensive cancer centers throughout the United States, including Harvard, Yale, and the Mayo Clinic. 

NCCN leaders praised Simmons Cancer Center's combination of medical and scientific expertise, as well as its leadership in clinical trials and advanced therapies, when it named UT Southwestern to its alliance in March 2020.

NCCN and NCI comprehensive designations are the gold standards for cancer programs. They reflect our ability to deliver the best care available today and our promise to discover treatments that will lead to the best cancer care of tomorrow.

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Nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report for cancer care, prevention

UT Southwestern’s cancer care earned national recognition from U.S. News & World Report for 2020-21, placing us among the country’s leading cancer treatment facilities.

Our team of hundreds of leading cancer physicians and oncology-trained support staff are trusted partners in returning patients with cancer to good health. Through a combination of expertly delivered, compassionate care and our initiatives to develop new lines of defense against cancer, we offer more than most cancer centers. We deliver the future of cancer care, today.

An Elite Standard of Cancer Care and Research

At Simmons Cancer Center, we have hundreds of professionals participating in more than a dozen cancer research and clinical care programs to advance the treatment and prevention of cancer through basic discovery, translational research, innovative clinical trials, exceptional cancer care, community education, and the latest technologies.

Cancer Clinical Trials

Our Sole Focus Is Cancer

At Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, we are experts in diagnosing and treating cancer because we offer:

  • The top cancer specialists in the country
  • Innovative therapies
  • Seamless disease-oriented teams collaborating for each patient
  • A broad array of treatment options
  • Leading-edge clinical trials
  • The most advanced technology and equipment
  • State-of-the-art clinics and hospitals
  • Support services for our patients and their loved ones

With NCI Comprehensive designation, Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center is among the most elite cancer centers in the U.S. According to a 2009 study from The Dartmouth Institute, one-year cancer deaths are 25% lower for patients with the four most common types of cancer who receive care at NCI-designated cancer centers.

Find a Clinical Trial

We have a wide range of clinical trials open to patients with all stages of cancer. Search for opportunities to participate in a cancer study.

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Simmons Acute Care

We offer same-day appointments for established patients experiencing cancer-related symptoms or side effects that need urgent attention.

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Cancer Stories

Answering questions you may have about cancer, addressing important topics, and keeping you informed about the latest research and innovation.

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