Coronavirus and cancer

Coronavirus and cancer Living with cancer now Worried about cancer?

If you have cancer, you might still be worried about how coronavirus affects you. People with cancer may be at a higher risk of infection, so the most important thing is to follow the advice from the NHS and your healthcare team.

The symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • a high temperature of above 37.8C and, or
  • a new continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different from normal.

If you have symptoms, contact your cancer advice line, chemotherapy helpline or acute oncology service if you have these symptoms and you are having cancer treatment or have cancer that affects your immune system.

If you have symptoms but you are not having cancer treatment, get advice and support from the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111.

If your cancer means you’re more at risk

The cancer you have or the kind of treatment you are receiving for cancer could mean are more at risk of becoming seriously ill if you were to get the COVID-19 infection.

For example, if you:

  • are undergoing active chemotherapy
  • are having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • are having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP (poly-ADP ribose polymerase) inhibitors
  • are undergoing intensive (radical) radiotherapy for lung cancer
  • have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • are at any stage of treatment for cancer of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma.

The government has updated its guidance for people who are shielding, taking into account that COVID-19 disease levels are substantially lower now than when shielding was first introduced.

From the 6 July 2020, if you are shielding you can now:

  • spend time outdoors in a group of up to six people
  • form a support bubble with one other household if you live alone.

From 1 August 2020 you can:

  • visit shops and places of worship
  • go to work if you cannot work from home.

More about these changes


If you are at less risk or if you have had cancer in the past

If you are not in one of the above vulnerable groups, you should follow new guidance from 4 July 2020 for staying alert and safe (social distancing). You should continue to avoid close contact and remain socially distant from anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble.

After treatment for cancer, your immune system usually recovers over time. So, if you’ve had cancer in the past, it is unlikely you’re extremely vulnerable if:

  • it’s some time since you finished treatment
  • you don’t have one of the other specific conditions listed on the government link above
  • you haven’t received a letter.

Please remember you might be extremely vulnerable even if you aren’t receiving treatment and you have cancer of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma.

If you are unsure of your risk and what measures you should be taking, speak with your hospital specialist or contact your GP.

If you have signs or symptoms that could suggest cancer

It is important you seek clinical advice if you have a worrying symptom. GPs can still make urgent referrals to specialists or for tests if they’re worried you might have cancer. Your GP surgery may offer you an online consultation, so you do not have to go to the surgery unnecessarily.

Please contact your GP surgery directly if you are worried about a possible cancer symptom. You can telephone or you can go to your surgery’s website and complete and submit an online form via e-Consult.


If you have been referred by your GP and have been offered a diagnostic appointment

This means you have been given a fast track referral and it’s really important you go to your appointment. Please read or print out one of the fast track referral leaflets from the below list for information about the next steps.

Download a PDF in:

Easy Read
العربية (Arabic)
বাংলা (Bengali)
فارسی (Farsi)
کوردی (Kurdish)

To request the leaflet in a different format, please email:

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