By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Cancer and COVID-19. New research says treatment does not increase the risk of virus or death. It’s reassuring to breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy during the pandemic.

Tricia Vertucci had a double mastectomy and started 16 rounds of chemotherapy just before COVID hit.

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Her husband, who’s an essential worker, moved out to keep her safe.

“It was really scary. It really was,” Vertucci said. “And then, God forbid, I got COVID. That’s why my husband had to go live somewhere else. I had my immune system was shot between all the chemo and just the surgery three months prior to that.”

There have been concerns that treatments like chemotherapy could make patients more vulnerable to the coronavirus. Now, a new study shows breast cancer patients treated with chemo do not have an increased risk for COVID-19, compared to patients who had other treatments.

“We also found that patients who contracted COVID-19, who had previously received therapy, did not have a higher mortality rate,” Dr. Douglas Marks said.

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Marks led the study of more than 3,000 breast cancer patients who were treated at the height of the pandemic. It found that older and overweight patients had a higher risk of dying from COVID.

“The risk factors that have been identified in the general population still hold true,” Marks said, “so I think in counseling a patient, we still have to be mindful of their general medical conditions.”

After chemo, Vertucci, who’s 46, had six months of radiation and some reconstructive surgeries.

Now, she’s looking forward to taking a vacation with her family and starting a new job.

“I’m getting back to being whole again and feeling good about myself again,” she said. “I could not have gone through this without my family and my friends. I come out on the other side learning that I’m very strong.”

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Researchers say this study is believed to be the first to look at whether breast cancer therapies can affect COVID-19 infection and death risk.

Stephanie Stahl