Having a diagnosis of cancer can be extremely stressful, but particularly now during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether you have cancer currently, had cancer in the past, or are caring for a loved one with cancer, the situation may be more challenging than usual. Your treatment team and all those working in cancer support and care, are working as hard as we can to make sure that you receive the best treatment and outcomes possible.
People with compromised immune systems or pre-existing medical conditions, including cancer, may be at increased risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) and increased risk of more severe infection.
Our knowledge about COVID-19 is changing rapidly. If you are receiving cancer treatment that suppresses your immune system and you develop a fever or respiratory symptoms, call your oncologist or a member of your treatment team, as you usually would if you develop a fever while on treatment. Be sure to follow their guidance on actions to take.
Everyone should practice good hygiene to protect against infection, including people who have had cancer
Good hygiene and taking care when interacting with other people are the best defences for you and your family against COVID-19. We recommend that you:
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue.
- Put used tissues straight into the bin.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitisers.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces such as benchtops, desks and doorknobs.
- CIean and disinfect frequently used objects such as mobile phones, keys, wallets and work passes.
- Stay 1.5 metres away from other people. This is called social distancing.
- If you are sick, stay at home and avoid contact with others.
- Avoid non-essential travel and stay at home.
- Think about having your groceries delivered.
- Increase the amount of fresh air available by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning.
People at increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19, such as people receiving treatment for cancer, and people living with metastatic cancer
As well as practising good hygiene:
- Ensure you have adequate prescription and over-the-counter medications.
- Think about having the chemist deliver your medicines.
- When you need to go out in public, keep space between yourself and others, avoid crowds, stay away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
For family, friends and carers of people at increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19
Follow advice for good hygiene to protect against infection, including:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser for at least 20 seconds.
- Using a tissue and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoiding close contact with others, such as touching.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoiding contact with people in the community who are unwell.
There is no vaccine for COVID-19 yet. However, this year, it is important to have your influenza vaccination as early in the flu season as possible.
Coronavirus Health Information Line
Call this line if you are seeking information on novel coronavirus. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Phone: 1800 020 080
The Cancer Council Helpline
Cancer Council is a free, confidential telephone information and support service run by Cancer Councils in each state and territory. Call if you have a question about cancer, or if you're seeking emotional or practical support.
Phone: 13 11 20
Links to resources and information for people with cancer, families and carers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups and multicultural communities on COVID-19
In collaboration with a number of Australian peak bodies and organisations, the Australian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group has released an Information Sheet for Cancer Patients, Families and Carers on COVID-19.
The Lung Foundation of Australia has released an FAQ What you need to know about COVID-19.
Breast Cancer Network Australia has answers to some frequently asked questions about COVID-19.
Cancer Australia has developed an information resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with cancer - Cancer and COVID-19 – what it means for our Mob.
Cancer Council Australia has published information and resource sheets for people with cancer, including translations into other languages.
Phone: 1800 020 080
Non-urgent elective surgeries
As an update on the temporary suspension of non-urgent elective surgeries in Australia's public and private hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, from 27 April 2020, category 2 and some important category 3 procedures can recommence across the public and private hospital sectors.
The following procedures can recommence from 27 April 2020:
- Screening programs (cancer and other diseases)
- Post cancer reconstruction procedures (such as breast reconstruction)
- Procedures for children under 18 years of age.
- Joint replacements (incl knees, hips, shoulders)
- Cataracts and eye procedures
- Endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures
It is estimated that a gradual restart of elective surgeries will see 1 in 4 closed elective surgery operating lists reopen, with flexibility for states to determine the appropriate levels of elective surgery within this general framework.
Reintroduction of elective surgery in a staged manner balances the ongoing need for the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, while allowing our hospitals to treat elective surgery patients.
These arrangements will be reviewed by 11 May 2020, to determine if other elective surgeries and procedures can recommence and volumes increased.
Note the temporary suspension of non-urgent elective surgeries does not affect most cancer surgeries, as many of these are considered clinically urgent.
If you have an upcoming cancer surgery, your treatment team will be consulting with you to determine the best course of action for your individual needs.
Useful COVID-19 information links
- Current status on COVID-19 in Australia - Department of Health (Australia)
- COVID-19 Consumer messaging kit – HealthDirect’s answers to questions and symptom checker
- Advice for the public about COVID-19- World Health Organization