This page should help to give you some information and guidance. But it’s important to remember to follow both your medical team’s and your country’s public health body’s advice regarding COVID-19.
COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is a disease caused by a type of virus known as a coronavirus. It was first identified in an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.1
The virus spreads between people through small liquid particles when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, or breathes in close contact with another person. It can also be spread when people touch their mouth, eyes, or nose after touching surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus.2
Symptoms of COVID-19 generally appear 2–14 days after someone has encountered the virus and range from mild symptoms to severe illness. Not everyone will get all the symptoms below, and some people may get additional ones. The three main symptoms are:3,4
Other symptoms include:
As a person with cancer, or who is actively receiving cancer treatment, you’re likely to be at a very high risk for developing serious complications from a COVID-19 infection.5,6 This is because people with cancer may have weakened immune systems, either due to the cancer itself or due to cancer treatments, such as radiotherapy.7
As a result, you should understand the risks of COVID-19 and take sensible steps to help minimise the likelihood of you catching the virus and avoid it spreading to other people.
Try not to worry if you do catch COVID-19, as your care team are there to support you. Also, early results of a study (called SOAP) looking at COVID-19 and people who have cancer have found that people with solid cancers (abnormal cell growth in ‘solid’ organs like the lungs) are able to fight a COVID-19 infection in a similar way to those who don’t have cancer. In addition, it’s unlikely that COVID-19 can make someone’s cancer worse.8
There are simple steps that you can take to minimise your risk of catching COVID-19 or spreading it. These include:2
Overall, most expert medical specialists and groups recommend that most people with cancer should get a COVID-19 vaccine.11 Everybody’s situation is different, so it’s best to discuss the risks and benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine with your healthcare team, who can advise you further.12
This is especially important if you’re currently receiving cancer treatment. Although vaccines can be given before, during, or after cancer treatment, your healthcare team can decide when is best for you.11 For example, if you’re due to start cancer treatment or have surgery, your healthcare team might recommend that you have a vaccination before your treatment begins, to provide a better chance of protection.
Being advised to stay at home and reduce face-to-face contact can throw you out of your routine and add extra stress on top of living with cancer. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of your physical and mental health during the pandemic.
You may be finding it more difficult to exercise while staying indoors. Exercise can improve our mood and boost our overall health,13 so it might be useful to have a look online for some simple home workouts. You can even search for workouts that are suitable for people with cancer – these will help you keep fit, even if you have mobility needs.
You don’t have to begin a workout routine if you’re not feeling up to it – simple things like walking to the shops, gardening, or walking up the stairs are all forms of exercise.
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is also important while you’re at home. This might seem difficult if you’re unable to get to the shops or find ingredients to cook with. Whether you visit the shops yourself or have a friend or loved one visit for you, it’s a good idea to stock up on basic foods, such as: canned beans, fish, or meat, ready meals, long-life milk, cans of custard or rice pudding, breakfast cereals, tinned fruit/vegetables, long-life fruit juice, and cans or packets of soup.
As we spend more time indoors, getting enough sunshine might also be difficult. Sunshine on the skin is important, as it helps us produce vitamin D, which is needed for healthy bones and muscles.14,15 You may consider taking vitamin D supplements while you’re advised to stay at home. You can buy supplements at supermarkets, pharmacies, and other shops. The recommended dose of vitamin D is 10 micrograms per day. As always, check with your healthcare team before starting a new supplement or medication.7
Living with cancer can be difficult enough without the added worry of COVID-19. You may feel worried about catching COVID-19, or a loved one catching it. Spending more time at home can also be a challenging time, whether you live alone or with family. If you’re struggling with anxiety or feelings of depression, never be afraid to speak out and ask for help from your friends, family, or care team, who are all there to support you.
Here are some things you can do to help support your mental health:13,16
Real people living with NSCLC share their experiences from their lung cancer journeys.
There is more to living with NSCLC than just tests and treatments. In this section, you can learn more about staying physically and mentally healthy, and working while you have NSCLC.