Now that we have a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 and the risks posed for people with cancer, we are developing new ways of working. This clearly must reflect the principles of social distancing and strategies to keep both patients, their families and staff safe, as well as ensuring access to treatments in a safe and timely way. As a result of this we are running some of our services in a different way, namely:
The Wales Cancer Alliance website has advice and information from Public Health Wales and GOV.Wales.
If you have a worrying symptom, and you think it might be cancer, please contact your GP surgery straightaway. If you have been asked to go to hospital for further investigation or for treatment if you are diagnosed with cancer, it is important that you attend.
I am worried because I have a symptom which I think may mean I have cancer. What should I do?
If you have a symptom that you think may be cancer it is very important that you contact your GP straightaway. GP surgeries have been advised to offer online consultations and remote triage systems so people do not have to attend in person unnecessarily. Particular symptoms that people should look out for include bleeding that doesn’t come from an obvious injury, a new lump or weight loss. A fuller list of the symptoms to look out for can be found on the Be Clear on Cancer website.
I have been referred by my GP with suspected cancer. Should I attend my diagnostic/ outpatient appointment?
Where possible and safe to do so, clinical teams try to manage things remotely by using remote clinics. However, sometimes it is just not safe or possible to do so. This includes certain tests such as CT and MRI scans or where a physical examination or biopsy is necessary.
The clinical team will weigh up the risks of attending versus the risks of not attending for each individual patient, so it is very important that you attend if asked.
Many people who go to their GPs with symptoms will not have cancer and they may need to do the tests to confirm this. However, if you do have cancer, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chance of a cure.
The only reason that you should not attend is if you or someone you live with has symptoms of COVID-19. In this case you should tell the hospital, cancel your appointment and book a test, self-isolating whilst you await the result. Once you have received a negative swab or recover from COVID-19, you should contact the hospital to reschedule your appointment.
I have had cancer in the past for which I have been treated but have developed further symptoms that I am worried mean it has come back. What should I do?
Again, it is very important you seek help from your GP straightaway. They will then contact you to discuss the way forward. This may mean that you need to have some further tests or need to speak to or be seen by a hospital doctor. It is important that you do not delay, as if the cancer has returned, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances of being able to have further treatment quickly.
How will COVID-19 impact on cancer treatments?
There has been a lot of concern that cancer patients, particularly with certain types of cancer and receiving certain treatments, may be at higher risk of a serious outcome should they get COVID-19. Furthermore, the more anyone interacts with others, the risk for all people of contracting COVID-19 increases. As a consequence, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Royal Colleges have issued guidance on alternative treatment options or deferring treatment, where the evidence shows it can be done safely for patients.
Any treatment discussed with patients will take into account not only the recommendations but also the individual patient’s wishes. It is important that you ask any questions you have regarding your treatment so that you fully understand your options and any risks associated with them so you make the right decision for you.
I am on chemotherapy, if I develop sweats/ cough/ shivering what should I do?
It is very important in this situation to immediately contact the chemotherapy triage line number you have been given. You will be advised on the next steps you should take depending on your clinical symptoms and condition. The important thing is not to delay in seeking help.
If I develop COVID-19 what are the symptoms likely to be? Will they be different because I have cancer, even if I’m not on any treatment at present?
NHS.UK outlines the common symptoms of COVID-19. As above it is important that if you experience symptoms of any infection or illness that you seek help if you are unwell.
Does having had cancer treatment in the past i.e. stem cell transplant, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, even if I am in remission, increase my chance of getting the virus?
This depends on the type of cancer and treatment you have had. Most people make a full recovery after their cancer treatment and their immune system either fully recovers or is not affected.
If I need to self-isolate what will happen in relation to any treatment that has to be done weekly?
You should speak to the clinical team who is co-ordinating your care. Depending on the circumstances, it may be safest to delay treatment for a period of time but each individual case is different so you should seek advice at the earliest opportunity.
Will there be a problem accessing my cancer drugs?
There are currently no medicine shortages as a consequence of COVID-19.
I am a carer of someone with cancer. Should I do anything different?
There is information on GOV.Wales on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. You should follow Government guidelines on social distancing and protecting older people and vulnerable groups.