What is coronavirus disease (Covid-19)?

It is a flu-like virus, which can affect your lungs and airways. It is caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Covid-19 is the disease caused by the new coronavirus that emerged in China in December 2019.

What do I do if I have symptoms?

If you have either or both of the following:

  • A high temperature of above 37.8C and/or
  • A new continuous cough (having three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours or coughing for over an hour)

Contact your cancer helpline service, your acute oncology service, chemotherapy helpline or radiotherapy review team as soon as possible. You will be assessed over the phone. Do not come into the radiotherapy department.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home until you have spoken to a cancer helpline service or your healthcare team.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111 to check your symptoms. If you become seriously ill, call 999.

What do I do if someone I live with has symptoms?

If someone you live with has either or both of the following:

  • A high temperature of above 37.8C and/or
  • A new continuous cough (having three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours or coughing for over an hour)

Contact your cancer helpline service, acute oncology service, chemotherapy helpline or radiotherapy review team as soon as possible.

You could be an asymptomatic carrier or a transmission risk and this may affect when you can attend for radiotherapy. You will need to keep apart from the person you live with as much as possible to reduce the risk to you, for example, they will need to isolate in a separate room from you.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111 to check their symptoms. If they become seriously ill, call 999

What happens if I have suspected or confirmed Covid-19?

You may be able to continue your radiotherapy treatment even if you are confirmed or suspected to have Covid-19. This will depend on your symptoms and whether the risks of giving radiotherapy outweigh the benefits. It may be necessary to interrupt your radiotherapy to allow time for you to recover.

Is it okay to have my radiotherapy treatment?

Your oncologist will speak to you if there are any changes to your radiotherapy treatment plan. They will only
sYour oncologist will speak to you if there are any changes to your radiotherapy treatment plan. They will only stop your treatment or give you a treatment break if it is safe to do so. If you are given a treatment break, every effort will be made to ensure you complete your treatment. Please be reassured that nothing will be altered without first consulting you.

I have had radiotherapy in the past: am I at risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19?

If you are in a vulnerable group, the NHS will have written to you and advised you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. If you haven’t received a letter but are concerned, contact your cancer helpline service, acute oncology service, chemotherapy helpline or radiotherapy review team.

What will happen when I come to the radiotherapy department?

If possible, please come into the department on your own This is to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19 and reduce the time you are in the department. This is for your safety and the safety of staff and other patients. If you need to attend with a carer or require additional assistance, please speak to one of the treatment team and they will be glad to help you.

Staff will be wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Don’t be alarmed if you see staff wearing PPE like face masks, gowns, gloves and eye goggles. This is for everyone’s safety and to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. It is not currently necessary for you to wear PPE, but if you have a cough you may be asked to wear a mask.

You will be screened on the way in This may involve answering questions on how you are feeling and having your temperature taken. This helps to identify patients with possible Covid-19 symptoms. Please adhere to social distancing advice throughout the department where possible.

Why has my treatment been changed/postponed?

Having radiotherapy requires you to come into hospital every day which could increase your risk of catching and/or spreading Covid-19. It is possible in some cases to reduce this risk by giving radiotherapy in fewer visits or even postponing radiotherapy where the cancer is low risk and can be monitored. These changes to treatment are considered on a case-by-case basis and are based on high-quality evidence. Your oncologist will weigh up the risks and benefits of you having radiotherapy treatment at this time and discuss these with you.

Healthcare teams will also consider the impact of Covid-19 on your local health services. This may mean some treatments will be prioritised over others, where it is safe to do so. This is in line with NHS guidance. National guidelines on Covid-19 and local guidelines at your hospital are being reviewed regularly. Your radiotherapy team will let you know of any changes that may apply to you or your treatment.

What is the advice for cancer patients?

There is evidence that some cancer patients are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they catch COVID-19. If you are in a vulnerable group, the NHS will have written to you and advised you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. These patient groups include those who are having or have recently had:

  • chemotherapy
  • curative radiotherapy for lung cancer
  • immunotherapy or antibody treatments for cancer
  • active treatment for blood or bone marrow cancers, such as myeloma, leukaemia or lymphoma
  • a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the last 6 months or are still taking immunosuppression drugs

If you haven’t received a letter but are concerned, contact your cancer helpline service, acute oncology service, chemotherapy helpline or radiotherapy review team. You can still have radiotherapy if you are in a vulnerable group.

What if I feel unwell during my radiotherapy treatment?

If you feel unwell or if you have any side effects during radiotherapy, please make sure to tell your radiotherapy team. Please do not withhold any symptoms or side effects. It is important to share how you are feeling so that you can receive the correct care and support throughout your treatment.

If you are feeling scared or overwhelmed by any of this, please do speak to a member of your radiotherapy team. They are here to help and support you through this crisis. You can also email Radiotherapy UK on info@radiotherapy.org.uk if you have any concerns, comments or suggestions about this information.

Support

We currently provide support via email. All our advisers are trained radiotherapy professionals who can offer support to anyone going through radiotherapy treatment. Contact us here.