COVID-19 and cancer

Date: 23 June 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be posting relevant information for our supporters and people living with cancer. This blog will be updated regularly as the situation develops.

You can find an update on the action the charity has taken in response to COVID-19 here

Should I see my GP if I’m worried I have cancer?

If you’re experiencing a symptom of cancer, it’s important you contact your GP surgery as soon as possible. To minimise the potential spread of COVID-19, GP surgeries are trying to reduce the number of face-to-face appointments carried out so you may be offered the opportunity to talk to a doctor over the phone or online in the first instance. 

Dr Amir Khan explains why it's so important to contact your GP if you are worried about any unusual changes to your body or anything that doesn’t go away, and what attending an appointment at your surgery might be like.

I already have a medical appointment. What should I do?

The Government is currently advising people to access medical assistance remotely where possible. This means using the telephone or other electronic device for a phone or video consultation. Medical professionals are also being encouraged to postpone face-to-face appointments if they can. 

If you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment, talk to your GP or clinician to ensure you continue to receive the care you need. 

Are cancer screening programmes running as normal?

National cancer screening programmes may be paused while the NHS focuses on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

UPDATE: In some areas, invitations to take part in screening are beginning to be sent out. We recommend anyone invited to take part do so.

Will my cancer treatment plan be affected?

UPDATE: On Monday 27th April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the most urgent NHS services, such as cancer care, which had been stopped so coronavirus could be prioritised, would begin to be restored. Services will be reintroduced on a locally-decided basis, depending on the level the virus is currently impacting different areas and trusts, which varies widely, and how safely work can be reintroduced.

The COVID-19 pandemic means that doctors may need to prioritise cancer treatment for those most in need.

In some cases, the risks of beginning or continuing cancer treatment could outweigh the benefits. This is because patients undergoing treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy are more at risk of becoming seriously unwell if they contract the virus.

To minimise the spread of COVID-19, your hospital may reduce face-to-face appointments and patients may receive treatment at home where possible. 

If you’re currently being treated for cancer, you should discuss your treatment plan with your doctor or cancer nurse specialist. 

What is ‘shielding’?

People classed as clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to take additional action to prevent themselves from coming into contact with the virus. If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, you’re strongly advised to stay at home as much as possible and keep visits outside to a minimum (for instance once per day).

This is called ‘shielding’ and the advice is now updated:

  • If you wish to spend time outdoors (though not in other buildings, households, or enclosed spaces) you should take extra care to minimise contact with others by keeping 2 metres apart.
  • If you choose to spend time outdoors, this can be with members of your own household. If you live alone, you can spend time outdoors with one person from another household (ideally the same person each time).
  • You should stay alert when leaving home: washing your hands regularly, maintaining social distance and avoiding gatherings of any size.
  • You should not attend any gatherings, including gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, parties, weddings and religious services.
  • You should strictly avoid contact with anyone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature, or a loss of, or change in, your sense of taste or smell).

From 6 July, the government will be advising:

  • you may, if you wish, meet in a group of up to 6 people outdoors, including people from different households, while maintaining strict social distancing
  • you no longer need to observe social distancing with other members of your household
  • in line with the wider guidance for single adult households (either an adult living alone or with dependent children under 18) in the general population, you may from this date, if you wish, also form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household. All those in a support bubble will be able to spend time together inside each other’s homes, including overnight, without needing to socially distance

From 1 August the government will be advising that shielding will be paused. From this date, the government is advising you to adopt strict social distancing rather than full shielding measures. Strict social distancing means you may wish to go out to more places and see more people but you should take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household or support bubble. In practice this means that from 1 August:

  • you can go to work, if you cannot work from home, as long as the business is COVID-safe
  • children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can return to their education settings if they are eligible and in line with their peers. Where possible children should practise frequent hand washing and social distancing
  • you can go outside to buy food, to places of worship and for exercise but you should maintain strict social distancing
  • you should remain cautious as you are still at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus, so the advice is to stay at home where possible and, if you do go out, follow strict social distancing

Will clinical trials be paused?

Clinical and academic healthcare professionals are being encouraged to prioritise frontline care. This means recruitment for studies funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research and other organisations may be put on hold while the NHS deals with the COVID-19 outbreak. New studies are also being postponed while medical professionals focus on care for patients with COVID-19 and studies to tackle the pandemic. If you are currently taking part in a clinical trial, please get in touch with the trial team with any questions or concerns.

According to the National Institute for Health Research, "as the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 declines, some studies that had been put on hold are now restarting. This means that as people receive appointments for non-COVID care, there will be opportunities to take part in research alongside this. The healthcare team may put in place changes to minimise risks for people taking part in research from COVID, such as fewer face-to-face clinics or drive-through blood tests. Check this site or speak to your health professional for updates on opportunities to take part in research, as things are changing quickly.

I’m a smoker. Am I more at risk from COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an illness that affects the lungs and airways. New evidence is emerging that shows smoking can make the impact of COVID-19 worse. 

The repetitive hand-to-face movements used in smoking can provide a route of entry for the virus, and infection can be more severe.

Quitting smoking remains the single most effective thing you can do for your long-term health and the health and wellbeing of your family.

The benefits of quitting can be noticed immediately. After 20 minutes your pulse rate will return to normal and after 72 hours breathing will become easier. Within 3-9 months coughs, wheezing and breathing problems will improve as lung function increases by up to 10%.

Although face-to-face stop smoking consultations have been put on hold during the outbreak, you can access support and advice online.  

Please visit to find out more.  

I’m a vaper. Am I more at risk?

E-cigarettes (vapes) can be an effective aid to stopping smoking and staying smokefree. The evidence on the health risks of e-cigarettes is still developing. However, it is clear that vaping is far less harmful to the respiratory system than smoking. There is very little evidence on vaping and coronavirus (COVID-19) and it is unknown whether vaping makes you more susceptible to severe disease if you become infected.  If it does, the risk is likely to be much less than if you smoke.


Vaping remains much less harmful than smoking for most people and it is very important that you avoid returning to smoking.

Vaping involves repetitive hand-to-face movements, which provide greater risk of a route of entry into the body for viruses. To reduce the risk of contact with coronavirus (COVID-19), you should:

  • Wash your hands more frequently than usual, for 20 seconds, with soap and water (or use hand sanitiser if soap is not available)
  • Clean your e-cigarette regularly

Public Health England strongly advises against sharing any vaping devices.

Public Health England’s 2018 independent e-cigarette evidence review found that, to date, there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders. There is currently no evidence that coronavirus (COVID-19) can be caught from passive exposure to e-cigarette vapour, but in the absence of evidence we recommend that vapers avoid exhaling clouds of vapour in the presence of others.


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From supporting people to make lifestyle choices that reduce their risk of developing cancer, encouraging more people to take part in national cancer screening programmes, to finding the best treatments from across the globe and bringing them to Yorkshire, the charity is having a direct impact on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.

But we need more people to join us, to help make sure that people in the region have the best possible support and treatment.

We'd love you to be part of it.



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