Patient information

Advice on coronavirus for people with cancer

On this blog page you will find information and advice on the coronavirus for people with cancer, including: symptoms, your risk if you have pancreatic cancer and what you can do.

Updated 19/10/2020

Download more advice

For more information and answers to frequently asked questions about coronavirus. You can also contact healthinfo@panact.org if you have any specific questions, or call us on 0303 040 1770.

Cancer treatment and coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all areas of the NHS and as the outbreak continues, you may be worried about the impact on cancer diagnosis and treatment. Here's what we know so far about how cancer treatment is being affected and questions for your doctor.

About coronavirus

Coronavirus is a group of viruses that includes cold, flu and more serious respiratory illnesses such as SARS. This disease is a new coronavirus, never seen before in humans called COVID-19.

Because this type of coronavirus has not been seen before, we currently lack vaccinations to prevent the disease or a cure. At present, we can only give treatments to manage the symptoms of the disease. Coronavirus has so far mainly affected adults and is more dangerous for older people, those with long term conditions or a compromised immune system.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of coronavirus include loss of taste and smell, a fever (raised temperature), cough and shortness of breath. However, many people experience a range of symptoms. For most people the virus is mild, however, some people will develop complications such as pneumonia and a small number of people will become seriously ill.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus it is important to stay at home for seven days if you live alone or 14 if you live with anyone else. They will also need to self isolate at home for 14 days.

You are advised to contact NHS online or 111 with coronavirus symptoms. You will be directed towards help getting a test, from a test centre near you or from home. .

If you live in Scotland and are worried about coronavirus symptoms, you can use NHS inform. If you are a concerned cancer patient, the advice is to call the Cancer Treatment helpline on 0800 917 7711.

When seeking advice about coronavirus symptoms, make sure you explain about pancreatic cancer. In a medical emergency, always dial 999.

Am I more at risk if I have pancreatic cancer or have had it in the past?

It is difficult to know exactly how much pancreatic cancer raises the risk of coronavirus or increases the severity of the disease. But we do know that some of the treatments and complications of pancreatic cancer make people more vulnerable.

If you are currently receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer such as surgery or chemotherapy, this may weaken your immune system and increase your chances of infection. It may also make it harder for your body to fight disease.

If you have had surgery for pancreatic cancer and recovered from the disease, your risk of infection may still be raised. Many types of surgery for pancreatic cancer involve removal of the spleen, an organ that is important for the immune system and fighting infection. This may mean that you are more at risk of the virus and potential complications.

Some people develop diabetes alongside pancreatic cancer or after surgery to remove part of the pancreas. This may increase the chances of complications as a result of coronavirus.

How can I reduce my risk/what can I do?

Government advice varies depending on whereabouts in the UK you live. It is important to check the advice in your area and remember that it may change regularly depending on infection rates. At present, lockdown rules are continuing to ease, varying depending on where you live.

England

England has now been split into 3 tiers depending on the level of risk; medium, high and very high.

Restrictions vary according to the risk in your local area.

You can find out which tier your area falls into using the Covid-19 local restrictions tracker (England) at https://www.gov.uk/find-coronavirus-local-restrictions and on the NHS Covid-19 app.

Tier 1- Medium risk; rule of 6 indoors and out. Closure of hospitality at 10pm

Tier 2- High risk; no household mixing indoors. Rule of 6 outdoors and in private gardens

Tier 3- Very high risk; No mixing of households indoors or outdoors other than the rule of 6 in public spaces such as parks or beaches. Pubs and bars must close unless they serve food. Wedding receptions banned. Travel to be as limited as possible. Local authorities may go further to close gyms, leisure centres and other venues if appropriate.

Regardless of which tier you are in, facemasks must be worn in public indoor spaces and on public transport and you are encouraged to work from home if you can.

Wales

  • Wales will be in a national lockdown for 2 weeks from Friday (23/10) at 6 pm. All but key workers must work from home. Non essential retail and all hospitality must close. Any gatherings with those outside of your household are banned.
  • You may only gather indoors with members of your household or extended household in a group of up to 6 (this does not include children under the age of 11)
  • You can only meet people outside of your household outdoors
  • Local lockdowns apply across Wales and can be checked online
  • Work from home if you can
  • You cannot travel from high-risk areas across the rest of the UK into Wales
  • You are encouraged to download the NHS Covid-19 test and trace app

Scotland

  • Face coverings must be worn on public transport and in shops
  • Two households can meet indoors or outdoors (no more than 6 people and children under 12 are not counted) with exemptions for weddings, funerals and christenings
  • Local lockdowns apply, please check restrictions in your local area
  • You are encouraged to download the “protect Scotland” test and trace app

Northern Ireland

  • Social bubbles are reduced to 2 households under 10 people in total
  • Face coverings must be worn on public transport and indoor settings
  • A single person household can form a bubble with another household
  • Pubs not serving food and bar will remain closed
  • Half term has been extended from October 19th to 30th
  • You are encouraged to download the Stop COVIDNI test and trace app

Continue to follow NHS advice about preventing the spread of coronavirus;

  • Regularly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Use hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues straight into the bin and wash your hands afterwards
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Anyone using public transport¬† must wear a face covering

Local lockdowns

As restrictions continue to ease across the UK, spikes in Coronavirus cases are being managed using local lockdowns such as those in Leicester and Aberdeen. These lockdowns may vary in length and the type of restriction so it is important to be aware of the situation in your local area.

Will coronavirus affect my cancer treatment?

Doctors will have considered your personal risk of coronavirus and pressures in your area when making treatment decisions or changes to your planned treatment. Your treatment may have been postponed to protect you from the worst effects of the virus.

Depending on where you live, cancer services in your area may be reorganised as the coronavirus outbreak continues. You may find that the location of your cancer treatment changes to a different hospital or cancer hub. Your doctor may adjust your treatment regime so that more of your treatment can be delivered at home.

You should now find that your treatments are beginning to be restored. This may not be in the same location as prior to the pandemic but medical teams are confident that changes have been made to protect you, and encourage you to attend any appointments.

If you are worried about how coronavirus has or will continue to affect your treatment, it is important to speak to your medical team.

Using the NHS website regularly is the best way to keep up to date with accurate and reliable advice.

Read more about treatment 

You can contact healthinfo@panact.org if you have any specific questions, or call us on 0303 040 1770.