If you have had cancer in the past

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)

If you have had cancer in the past, you may be worried about your risk of coronavirus. Your risk will depend on:

  • the type of cancer you have had
  • the type of treatment you have had
  • how long ago you finished treatment
  • your general health.  

Some people with some types of cancer are at increased risk of being seriously ill if they get coronavirus. If you are in this group of people, you will have received a letter or text from your hospital team or your GP telling you this. You will have been advised to follow the government ‘shielding’ guidelines. This is to protect you from getting coronavirus. Shielding is now paused. We have more information here.

Cancer type and coronavirus risk

The NHS says that anyone who has a cancer of the blood or bone marrow, such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who is at any stage of treatment, is at increased risk of becoming seriously ill if they get coronavirus. This is because blood cancers affect the immune system.

People with a blood cancer are ‘extremely vulnerable’ and they should have followed the government's advice about shielding. Shielding is now paused as the level of coronavirus has gone down. But it is still important for people who are extremely vulnerable to keep contact with others as low as possible. Local authorities can re-introduce restrictions to control the spread of the virus in a particular area, if the number of coronavirus cases goes up. So you may be advised to shield again if local restrictions are introduced in your area. 

You are considered ‘extremely vulnerable’ if you:

  • have been diagnosed with a blood cancer but are not having treatment
  • are currently having treatment
  • have had treatment and are in remission
  • have had your spleen removed.

If it is over 2 years since you completed your treatment for a high-grade lymphoma, and you remain well, you may want to talk to your hospital team about your individual risk.

If you have had a cancer that is not a blood cancer, for example breast cancer or bowel cancer, and your immune system has recovered from treatment, then you are not thought to be at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if you get coronavirus.

If you have been treated for any type of cancer in the past and you are worried about your risk, you should talk to your GP or your cancer team.

Your immune system after cancer treatment

Most people with cancer will recover well from treatment. While they may have some lasting effects of treatment, their immune system will usually recover in a few months. People in this situation will not be more at risk of being seriously unwell if they get coronavirus (COVID-19).

Talk to your hospital team if you are worried you may be more at risk of being seriously ill if you get coronavirus.

We have information about looking after your immune system while at home.

Everyone needs to follow government advice for social distancing to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. This includes good hand hygiene and wearing a face mask where necessary. They must also follow advice to self-isolate if they, anyone in their household or support bubble:

  • develops symptoms 
  • tests positive for COVID-19 
  • is asked to self-isolate by NHS test and trace.

What should i do if I have coronavirus symptoms?

The symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are:

  • a new, continuous cough and/or
  • a high temperature
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you should follow the advice of the NHS. If you live in:

  • England: Visit NHS 111. If you do not have access to the internet, call 111
  • Scotland: Visit NHS Inform. If you do not have access to the internet, call 111
  • Wales: Visit NHS 111. If you do not have access to the internet, call 111
  • Northern Ireland: Visit the Public Health Agency website. Or call 111 or your GP or the out of hours GP. 

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. If you or someone else is seriously unwell, ring 999 and tell them you are concerned about COVID-19.

You should self-isolate (stay at home all the time) for 10 days if you live alone and have symptoms even if the symptoms are mild.

You will usually need to self-isolate for 14 days if:

  • someone you live with or someone in your support bubble has symptoms or has tested positive
  • you have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace

We have more information about self-isolation.


Should I be tested for coronavirus?

Testing for coronavirus involves using a long cotton bud to take a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus you need to arrange to be tested. You need to be tested in the first five days of having symptoms. On days 1 to 4 you can be tested at a test site or at home. On day 5, you need to be tested at a test site as it is too late for a home test.

Read more about arranging a test on the government website.

You can read more and apply for a test in:

How we can help

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