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September 15, 2020

Coronavirus and Cancer

Updated: 15 September 2020

We understand that if you are living with or caring for someone with cancer, or if you are living beyond cancer, you may be worried about how Coronavirus could affect you and your loved ones.

Below, we’ve included a list of resources, government and NHS advice and answers to frequently asked questions that will hopefully provide you support, guidance and answer some of the questions you may have.

This advice will be updated regularly when more information becomes available. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling us 0800 092 7640 (free to call Monday to Friday from 9.00am-5.00pm) or you can send us an email at support@big-c.co.uk.

Government Advice

There are three simply action you can take to keep on protecting yourself and others:
  • Wash Hands – keep washing your hands regularly
  • Cover Face – wear a face covering in enclosed spaces
  • Make Space – stay at least 2 metres apart – or 1 metre with a face covering or other precautions.
In the first instance, please refer to wider Government guidance on:

The Government has a wide range of information to help people at this time. Find out more at: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

NHS and cancer treatment

The NHS is currently moving into the next phase of its response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: to restore and recover all services for patients.

If you have any worrying symptoms of cancer or you have noticed changes in your body which are unusual for you, please contact your GP surgery straightaway. 

If you have been asked to go the hospital for further investigation or for treatment, it is important that you attend your appointment. 

Click the links below to find out more about Norfolk’s hospitals and what measurements have been put in place to ensure your safety during your appointment:

Frequently Asked Questions

For people worried they have cancer

Q1 I am worried that I have symptoms of cancer. Should I still go to my GP?

It is important that you seek clinical advice if you have a worrying symptom or a change in your body which is unusual for you. Many GP surgeries offer phone and online consultations and some are now offering in-person appointments. 

For a list of symptoms which could be related to cancer, visit the Be Clear on Cancer website. 

Q2 I have just been referred by my GP with suspected cancer. Should I attend my diagnostic appointment?

If you have been asked to go to the hospital for further investigation, it is important that you attend. The NHS is reorganising the way that cancer diagnosis is delivered so that you can undergo diagnostic tests in places protected from the coronavirus.

Because of that, you may be asked to self-isolate for seven days before any diagnostic procedures, even if you do not have coronavirus symptoms. You should discuss with the clinical team at the hospital if you have any concerns about attending. 

Most people who go to their GP with symptoms do not have cancer. However, if you do have cancer, earlier diagnosis can mean more effective treatment and improved chances of survival.   

If you have been asked to attend hospital, the only reason you should not go is if you have any symptoms of coronavirus. 

In this case, you should tell the hospital, cancel your appointment and self-isolate.

The clinical team will discuss with you about when your appointment can be safely rescheduled.

For people living with cancer now

Q3 Do I need to do anything differently as someone who is being treated / in remission from cancer/living with a chronic cancer?

People with certain cancers and those who have received or are receiving certain treatments are at risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes:

  • People having chemotherapy, or who have received chemotherapy in the last 3 months
  • People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • People having intensive (radical) radiotherapy for lung cancer
  • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment

Cancer treatment providers may advise people in these groups to minimise their risk of exposure to COVID-19 infection by avoiding crowded environments, limiting social interaction and maintaining careful hand hygiene.

Q4 Do I still need to shield? Why was it paused? 

As of August 2020, shielding is paused in the UK.

With shielding pausing, it means that you no longer have to shield. But you should stay alert as those diagnosed with cancer who have received or are currently receiving treatment are still at risk of catching coronavirus (COVID-19).

Shielding was paused because the number of people with coronavirus went down, meaning that there was a lower risk of catching it. Advice is also changing as we learn more about the virus.

However, you may be asked to shield again if the area you live in goes into a local lockdown.

For the most up-to-date information on shielding, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19 

Q5 I’ve been advised to shield. What support is available to me? 

If you are an extremely vulnerable individual who has received a letter advising you to shield, you should register online if you need extra support such as having essential groceries delivered to your home or setting up regular calls with an NHS volunteer. 

More information on support available can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

Q6 I am worried about now that I am no longer shielding, what support is available to me?

We know that this may be a difficult time for you and our Support and Information (S&I) Team is here to help.

Our S&I Officers and Nurses are here to listen to your concerns and can offer you support and advice.

If you need support, call us at 0800 092 7540 (free to call Monday to Friday 9.00am-5.0ppm) or email us at support@big-c.co.uk

Q7 What will happen to my cancer treatment?

The NHS is currently moving into the next phase of its response to the COVID-19 outbreak: to restore and recover NHS services so that they start to operate as they did before the pandemic. This means that cancer diagnosis, treatments and care are continuing, and the NHS is working to ensure that these services return to operating as they did before.

Many measurements and wider measures have been put in place to ensure those who need to visit the hospital are safe. 

Your clinical team are best placed to talk with you about your treatment and appointments. 

You can also speak to our Big C Nurses if you have any concerns or questions at 0800 092 7640 (free to call Monday to Friday from 9.00am-5.00pm) or email support@big-c.co.uk

Q8 I am undergoing chemotherapy treatment and am experiencing sweats/ cough/ shivering – should I call the NHS 111 or chemotherapy care line?

You should call the chemotherapy care line.  If the chemotherapy care line is not available in your area, please speak to your clinical team about who you should call in this situation.

Q9 I need to shield/self-isolate for 7-10 days, what will happen to my weekly treatment?

Your clinical team are best placed to talk to you about your treatment and appointments. They will work with you to determine the best course of action.

For guidance if you think you or someone in your household has coronavirus, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection

Q10 What should I do if my clinician is diagnosed with coronavirus?

If your clinician is diagnosed with coronavirus and you have not seen them recently, then you are unlikely to have been exposed to coronavirus. If you are concerned about the impact this will have on your treatment, contact your hospital for advice.

Q10 Should I go to work / not see friends / not see friends who’ve travelled from affected areas?

We recommend everyone follows the NHS and government advice around reducing the risk of picking up infections, such as avoiding crowded places or coming into contact with the condition: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
 
We also recommend everyone follows the NHS and government advice about what to do if they are concerned they have come into contact with someone with the coronavirus: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/common-questions/
 
The Foreign Office has the most up-to-date information about how different countries are affected: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/advice-for-travellers/
For people who have had cancer in the past

Q11 Does having had cancer treatment in the past (for example, stem cell transplants, chemotherapy, radiotherapy)– even if I am now in remission – increase my risk if I get the virus?

This depends on the type of cancer and the treatment you have had. Most people make a full recovery after cancer treatment and their immune system either recovers fully or is not affected (see Q1 response).

For people who are family/friends/carers of people living with cancer

For the most up-to-date guidance to protect yourself and your family and friend, click the links below: 

Q12 Should my child return to school or should I return to work if they or someone in our household has been asked to shield?

If someone in your household has been told to shield, it is important that everyone living in that household follow the measures to ‘shield’ with them.

However, the government has set out the following advice on attending school for children and young people who fall into any of the clinically extremely vulnerable groups or who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable:

  • Children and young people in eligible year groups are strongly encouraged to attend (where there are no shielding concerns for the child or their household)
  • Children, young people and staff who have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable due to pre-existing medical conditions have been advised to shield. We do not expect people in this category to be attending school or college, and they should continue to be supported to learn or work at home as much as possible.
  • If a child/young person or staff member lives in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable, as set out in the guidance on shielding, it is advised they only attend an education or childcare setting if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and, in the case of children, if they are able to understand and follow those instructions. This may not be possible for very young children and older children without the capacity to adhere to the instructions on social distancing. If stringent social distancing cannot be adhered to, we do not expect those individuals to attend. They should be supported to learn or work at home.
The future

Q13 Will cancer patients be a priority for the vaccine if/when it is developed?

There is currently no vaccine for this form of coronavirus. Research is being done to develop a vaccine, but this will take many months. The BBC has written about this issue: www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51665497.
 
The best way to reduce your chance of infection is to follow the NHS advice on reducing the risk of picking up infections including thoroughly washing your hands frequently, practicing good hygiene and avoiding contact with people who are unwell: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

Q14 Will there be problems accessing my cancer drugs?

There are currently no medicine shortages as a result of COVID-19. The country is well prepared to deal with any impacts of the coronavirus and we have stockpiles of generic drugs like paracetamol in the event of any supply issues.

The Department of Health and Social Care is working closely with industry, the NHS and others in the supply chain to ensure patients can access the medicines they need and precautions are in place to prevent future shortages.

There is no need for patients to change the way they order prescriptions or take their medicines. Patients should always follow the advice of doctors, pharmacists or other prescribers who prescribe and dispense their medicines and medical products. The NHS has tried-and-tested ways of making sure patients receive their medicines and medical products, even under difficult circumstances. If patients order extra prescriptions, or stockpile, it will put pressure on stocks, meaning that some patients may not get the medicines or medical products they need.

*The following charities have developed this guidance: Anthony Nolan, Bloodwise, Bowel Cancer UK, Brain Tumour Research, Brains Trust, Breast Cancer Now, Cancer 52, Cancer Research UK, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, Leukaemia Care, Lymphoma Action, Macmillan Cancer Support, Myeloma UK, Ovarian Cancer Action, Pancreatic Cancer UK, Prostate Cancer UK, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Sarcoma UK and Teenage Cancer Trust.

If you have any questions or concerns, then Big C is here to help.
Contact our Support and Information team at 0800 092 7640 (free to call Monday-Friday 9.00am-5.00pm) or email support@big-c.co.uk

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