Cancer and COVID-19

 

Information and support regarding cancer and COVID-19

Cancer Council understands that Australians undergoing cancer treatment, cancer survivors and their families and friends may have questions in relation to the recent outbreak of Coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19.

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.

Call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 for any cancer-related information and support.


If you are experiencing symptoms

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 are undergoing cancer treatment

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.

 

Be prepared

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.

 

For family, friends and carers

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.

 

Get support

If you are feeling anxious, have questions or need support, please remember that Cancer Council’s support and information line is available on 13 11 20 during business hours. Our specially trained team can provide emotional support as well as practical tips for minimising the risk of infection during this time.

Social distancing as a result of COVID-19 may impact how you access support. Cancer Council’s Online Community is a safe and supportive online discussion site for people affected by cancer, their carers and families.

See here for current information on the impact of COVID-19 on our support services.

 

Where can I get further information?

For the most comprehensive information and advice on COVID-19:

For information on financial supports you may be entitled to from the Australian government, visit:

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.

Download our Hello Neighbour Assistance Card (167KB, PDF)

You can also find information about cancer and COVID-19 in 12 languages other than English here.

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