COVID-19 and cancer

Date: 16 April 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. We will update this blog with developments as they happen.

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’?

Shielding is a measure used to protect those at most risk of severe illness from COVID-19. It is for people with an underlying health condition and their family, friends and carers.

It applies to the following people living with cancer:

  • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
  • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
  • People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs 

The current advice for those shielding is: 

  1. Do not leave your house.
  2. Do not attend any gatherings, including gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, family homes, weddings and religious services.
  3. Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Government is currently advising people to shield until 30 June 2020 and is regularly monitoring this position.

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.

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?

There is not yet any clear evidence on whether vapers face additional risks from COVID-19. If you’ve switched from smoking to vaping, vaping remains a less harmful choice.    



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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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