Cancer treatment and coronavirus

Cancer treatment and coronavirus

Many people with cancer have been anxious about the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on their treatment and care. They may also have been worried that having treatment could put them more at risk of becoming very unwell with coronavirus.

The advice for people with cancer is please continue with your treatment and care plan as agreed with your healthcare team. Doctors continue to consider each person’s individual situation. Your healthcare team will talk with you about your treatment and appointments.

If you have questions about your treatment, you can ask your team.

The NHS continues to work hard to maintain delivery of cancer services. Macmillan aims to work in partnership with the NHS and also deliver direct support. Our support includes:

 

Coronavirus vaccine and cancer treatment

Public health experts and cancer specialists have agreed that people living with cancer should receive the vaccine. The coronavirus vaccines that are available can be given to people who are having cancer treatment. Vaccines save lives and reduce the need for hospital stays from coronavirus. We have more information about coronavirus vaccine and cancer.

How should I prepare for cancer treatment?

It is important that you look after your health and well-being before you start cancer treatment. This is called prehabilitation. This means making sure you are as healthy as possible before starting your treatment.  The immune system helps to protect us from infection and disease. It also protects us from viruses like coronavirus (COVID-19). Some things you can do to look after your immune system are:

  • keep active
  • eat well
  • get enough to drink
  • get enough sleep
  • look after your emotional and mental well being.

We have some advice about looking after your immune system. It includes information about staying active and eating well.

 

When you are having treatment

Cancer services continue to ensure that diagnosis, treatment and care is available for everyone who needs it. Your healthcare team will talk with you about your treatment and appointments. If you have any concerns or questions about your treatment, please speak to your team.

You may have some of your appointments by phone or by video consultation. We have some tips to help you prepare for these kinds of appointments.

You may notice some changes at the hospital clinic:

  • You will be asked if you have coronavirus symptoms
  • You will probably be tested for coronavirus if you are coming to hospital for cancer treatment
  • You may be asked to self-isolate before treatment. It is important to follow the advice given by your healthcare team.
  • If your immune system is compromised you may be seen in a separate area from other patients. You will usually get your cancer treatment in a room or area where you can be observed, and your treatments can be given safely.
  • You will have to wear a mask while at the hospital or clinic.
  • All staff will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) usually an apron, gloves and surgical mask.
  • Hospital staff, even if they have no symptoms, have regular coronavirus tests.
If you feel unwell or have any signs of infection including coronavirus symptoms while having cancer treatment, immediately phone:
  • the chemotherapy care line
  • the Acute Oncology Service at the hospital where you have your treatment
  • the number you were given by your hospital team in the event of an urgent query.
The important thing is to get urgent medical advice.
 

Finishing cancer treatment

Some cancer treatments affect the immune system. This includes chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Radiotherapy may sometimes affect your immune system. Most people’s immune system will recover well after they have finished their treatment.  Talk to your hospital team if you are worried you may be more at risk of being seriously ill if you get coronavirus (Covid-19). 

If you have had cancer in the past

If you have had cancer in the past, you may be worried about your risk of coronavirus. Coronavirus is a viral infection that affects the lungs. Anyone who has a weakened immune system is more at risk of being seriously ill if they get coronavirus (COVID-19). Your risk will depend on:

  • the type of cancer you have had
  • the type of treatment you have had
  • when you finished treatment
  • your general health.  

Most people with cancer will recover well from treatment. Their immune system will usually recover in a few months. They will not be more at risk of being seriously unwell if they get coronavirus. We have information about looking after yourself and staying well.

 Talk to your hospital team if you are worried about your risk of being seriously ill if you get coronavirus.

Easing of coronavirus restrictions

As coronavirus restrictions are starting to ease, it is understandable that this might be a worrying and uncertain time for people living with cancer. We have information about the support that's available, as well as advice to help you stay safe and cope with uncertainty.

Read more about the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Getting help and support with coronavirus

Macmillan Cancer Support are doing the best we can to support people. If coronavirus is worrying you, there is help available and people to talk to. From questions about coronavirus, to cancer treatment, to financial advice, we're here for you. Find out more about different support options and how you can speak to someone

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