Cancer and COVID-19

COVID-19 has made life especially challenging for people having 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 and have questions about the risks associated with COVID-19.

Generally, people with cancer should continue to follow any specific advice or standard precautions recommended by their healthcare team to minimise the risk of infection, during and after treatment.

While we’ve made some changes to our information and support services, we remain as committed as ever to  supporting anyone affected by cancer.

Call us on 13 11 20 to talk about any questions you may have about cancer and COVID-19. We can also connect you to support services that may be helpful to you.

For the latest updates about COID-19, please visit the NSW Health website.

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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.

Cancer Australia and Cancer Council and Peter Mac have up-to-date information on COVID-19 vaccines for people affected by cancer. They cover areas like safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, delivery of the vaccines, recommendation for cancer patients, side effects, and more.

To support multicultural communities with evidence-based information about COVID-19 vaccines and cancer, Cancer Australia has up-to-date information translated into 10 languages specifically for people affected by cancer.

If you are currently experiencing symptoms of infection with COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath) or are concerned that you may have been exposed to COVID-19, call your treatment team for advice.

If you or a loved one is living with cancer and/or are undergoing treatment, in addition to following the Australian government’s advice and the NSW 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 sanitiser. It’s a good idea to carry this with you. It is especially important to wash your hands before eating or drinking, and after going to the toilet.
  • 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 unwell (including within your household), anyone who may have been exposed to the virus or who may be at higher risk due to recent travel.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (tables, benches, light switches, doorknobs, sinks, toilets, remote controls, mobile phone, keys or eating surfaces). Wear gloves while cleaning (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 after treatments such as bone marrow transplantation.
  • Maintain at least 1.5 metre physical distance between yourself and others and avoid social greetings such as kissing, hugging 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.
  • 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 would like more specific advice around your individual risk.

Your cancer treatment team may be offering you appointments by phone or video instead of face-to-face. These are both types of telehealth. You can still use an interpreter for telehealth appointments if you want to.

For information, download our fact sheets about telehealth for cancer patients and carers in English and in community languages and listen to our podcast on Telehealth for Cancer.

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 healthcare provider about receiving the influenza vaccination as early in the flu season as possible to avoid passing he risk of passing on the flu to the person with cancer.

The NSW government mandates the use of face masks in certain situations. These rules may change from time to time, so it is best to check regularly.

In addition, if your immune system is compromised by cancer treatment, you may also wish to wear a mask in the following circumstances.

  • when it may be hard to maintain physical distance from other people, such as on public transport or in supermarkets
  • in public indoor settings with a higher risk of transmission,
  • during visits to hospital, treatment centres or your GP
  • when attending a place 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.

For more information on how to wear and use masks properly, visit the Australian Government website.

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

In the event that you are exposed to COVID-19 or begin to experience symptoms, call your General Practitioner for advice or call the 24-hour National Coronavirus Health Information line on 1800 020 080.

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

Knowledge of COVID-19 is changing rapidly as are the public health messages that keep you safe. Keep checking the Government websites for updated information.

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