Cancer and COVID-19

COVID-19 has made life challenging for Australians undergoing cancer treatment, cancer survivors and their families and friends.

If you have cancer, your immune system may not be as strong as it is normally so you may feel concerned about the risks associated with COVID-19.

Generally, people with cancer should continue to follow any specific advice or standard precautions recommended by their health care practitioners to minimise your risk of infection, during and after treatment.

While we’ve made some changes to our information and support services, we remain committed to supporting you and your loved ones during these tough times.

Call us on 13 11 20 and we’ll answer your questions and connect you to the relevant support services.

A message to those affected by cancer

We understand that you may be feeling heightened concern about COVID-19 so we wanted to send you this message.

If you are currently experiencing symptoms of infection (e.g. fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath) or are aware you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, please contact your treatment team.  Where possible obtain advice over the phone rather than attending in-person to lower your risk of exposure and to reduce the risk of exposing others.

If you or a loved one is living with cancer and/or are undergoing treatment, in addition to following the Australian government’s advice, there are additional precautions you can take to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. In many cases, these will be similar to precautions you may have been given by your treating team. These can include:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or if not immediately available use an alcohol-based hand rub. It’s a good idea to carry this with you. It is especially important to wash your hands before eating or drinking.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as this can transfer the virus from surfaces and increase the risk of infection.
  • Avoid contact with those who are sick or unwell or have been exposed to the virus or may be at higher risk due to recent travel to a high-risk country.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (tables, benches, light switches, doorknobs, sinks, toilets, remotes, such as your mobile phone or eating surfaces). Wear gloves (disposable if possible). Clean obvious debris with soap and water. Clean with a 70% alcohol solution or a mix of 4 teaspoons of bleach per litre of water.
  • Avoid crowds and crowded areas and avoid unnecessary physical contact, such as shaking hands, hugging or kissing. This is especially important if you are currently having chemotherapy or are post treatments such as bone marrow transplantation.
  • Maintain a 1.5 metre physical distance between yourself and others and avoid social habits such as kissing or handshakes.
  • Talk to your doctor or member of your treatment team about the times in your treatment when you may be at the highest risk of infection so you can plan your activities accordingly.(Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to boosting the immune system beyond adhering to a healthy lifestyle).
  • Call your treatment team to see if you can do you some of your consultations remotely via phone, Skype or Facetime.
  • Stay home as much as possible and avoid non-essential travel and avoid public transport if you can.

Most importantly, you should call your treatment team if you are concerned you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or want more specific advice around your individual risk.

The Australian Government has introduced measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure appropriate purchasing of prescription and over-the-counter medicines. This includes enabling people to have up to one-months’ supply of their usual prescription. Pharmacies are classified as essential services and are likely to remain open to enable people to fill usual prescriptions. If you have cancer, friends or family may be able to fill your prescriptions for you to avoid unnecessary exposure to public places.

The Home Medicines Program enables people who have a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, show symptoms of COVID-19 or are immunocompromised, including cancer patients, to order Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescription medicines online and have them delivered. A fact sheet (604KB, PDF) has been developed for more information.

If you have had contact with a person who could be at an increased risk of having the coronavirus, avoid any contact with the person who is receiving cancer treatment.

Talk to your health care provider about receiving the influenza vaccination as early in the flu season as possible to avoid passing on other infections and increasing the risk that you or your family member or friend will need healthcare.

Yes – if your immune system is compromised, there may be some situations where wearing a mask could reduce your risk of COVID-19.

What situations should I wear a mask in?

Wearing a mask is recommended:

  • when maintaining physical distance is difficult, such as on public transport or in supermarkets
  • in indoor settings with a higher risk of transmission, such as cafes,restaurants, pubs and clubs
  • during hospital or GP visits
  • during attendance at places of worship.

Masks are not a substitute for physical distancing. They should be seen as another line of defence, after staying at home, maintaining a 1.5-metre social distancing and good hand hygiene.

What kind of mask do I need?

A surgical or cloth mask is sufficient. You should not use a P2 or N95 mask.

What is the correct way to wear it?

When putting the mask on and off, try to only touch the mask by the straps that go over the ears. Once it’s on, do not remove it and put it back on.

Can I wear a surgical mask more than once?

Surgical masks are disposable, so if you choose to wear a surgical mask, it cannot be reused.

For more information, read the NSW Government’s advice on face masks.

For the most comprehensive information and advice on COVID-19, go to the NSW Government and the Department of Health.

For information on financial supports you may be entitled to from the Australian government, visit the Department of Treasury.

In the event that you are exposed to COVID-19 or begin to experience symptoms, it is best to call your General Practitioner for advice or use the 24-hour dedicated hotline on 1800 020 080.

Or call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 for any other cancer-related information and support.

Knowledge of coronavirus and the associated illness, COVID-19, is changing rapidly as are the public health messages that keep you safe. Keep checking the Government website for updated information. We will also update this information regularly.

Give a helping hand to your neighbours by downloading our Hello Neighbour Assistance Card.

See support and information about cancer and COVID-19 in 12 languages other than English.

We’re in this together

Life has changed, but cancer hasn’t stopped. So neither have we.

To get support, call 13 11 20.