Cancer and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Cancer and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Cancer Council WA understands that West Australians undergoing cancer treatment, cancer survivors and their families and friends may have questions in relation to the recent outbreak of Coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19.

Please see important information on this page pertaining to cancer and Coronavirus (COVID-19).

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how is it spread?

Coronavirus is a flu like virus. It causes an illness called COVID-19 which can affect your lungs and airways. For most people, the virus won't cause serious problems. But for some people, the virus can have serious complications.

COVID-19 can be spread from person-to-person. This can happen when a person comes into contact with the respiratory secretions of an infected person, for example through coughing or sneezing.

Spread of this Coronavirus from person-to-person is usually between close contacts. Close contacts are those people who have been face-to-face with a person infected with the virus for at least 15 minutes, or been in the same closed space for at least 2 hours with an infected person.

For more information, please visit: https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/coronavirus

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How can cancer and treatment weaken immunity?

If you have cancer, your immune system may not be as strong as it is normally so you may feel concerned about the risks associated with COVID-19.

The immune system protects the body against illness and infection caused by viruses like COVID-19. Some people with cancer have a weak immune system which reduces their ability to fight these infections.

Generally, people with cancer should continue to follow any specific advice or standard precautions recommended by their health care practitioners to minimise your risk of infection, during and after treatment.

For any cancer-related information and support, call Cancer Council WA on 13 11 20.

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What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms?

If you are currently experiencing symptoms of infection (e.g. fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath) or are aware you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please contact your treatment team.

Where possible, please obtain advice over the phone rather than attending in-person to lower your risk of exposure and to reduce the risk of exposing others.

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I am currently undergoing cancer treatment. How can I limit my risks of exposure?

If you are currently undergoing treatment some practical ways to limit your risks of exposure include:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or if not immediately available use an alcohol-based hand rub. It's a good idea to carry this with you. It is especially important to wash your hands before eating or drinking.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as this can transfer the virus from surfaces
  • Avoid contact with those who are sick or unwell or have been exposed to the virus or may be at higher risk due to recent travel to a high-risk country.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (such as tables, benches, light switches, doorknobs, sinks, toilets, remotes, mobile phone or eating surfaces).
  • Avoid crowds, crowded areas and unnecessary physical contact, such as shaking hands, hugging or kissing, and limit the number of visitors and carers that accompany you to appointments (if possible). This is especially important if you are currently having chemotherapy or are post-treatments such as bone marrow transplantation. Please note, treatment centres are putting additional measures in place, such as removing every second chair to assist with social distancing, to keep patients safe and to allay anxiety about sitting in busy waiting rooms.
  • Maintain a 1-metre physical distance between yourself and others and avoid social habits such as kissing or handshakes.
  • Talk to your doctor or member of your treatment team about the times in your treatment when you may be at the highest risk of infection so you can plan your activities accordingly (Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to boosting the immune system beyond adhering to a healthy lifestyle). 
  • Call your treatment team to see if you can do you some of your consultations remotely via phone, Skype or FaceTime.
  • Stay home as much as possible and avoid non-essential travel and avoid public transport if you can.

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Information for friends, family and carers

If you have had contact with a person who could be at an increased risk of having COVID-19, avoid any contact with the person who is receiving cancer treatment.

Talk to your health care provider about receiving the influenza vaccination as early in the flu season as possible to avoid passing on other infections and increasing the risk that you or your family member or friend will need healthcare.

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Where can I get support and more information?

  • Cancer Council's 13 11 20 Information and Support Line
    If you are feeling anxious, have questions or need support, please remember that Cancer Council WA's Support and Information line is available on 13 11 20 during business hours. Our specially trained team can provide emotional support as well as practical tips for minimising the risk of infection during this time.
  • Cancer Council's Online Community
    Social distancing as a result of COVID-19 may impact how you access support. Cancer Council's Online Community is a safe and supportive online discussion site for people affected by cancer, their carers and families.
  • Australian Government Department of Health
           -    Public health information on Coronavirus
           -   Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080

Important update to our cancer services and programs

Important update to services and programs

Please see below for updates to our cancer services and programs, effective 31 March 2020.

Due to the evolving situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, Cancer Council WA are following the Department of Health guidelines, and have implemented measures and precautions to ensure the safety of all of our staff, volunteers, colleagues, and the patients and families that we support.

We are focusing on minimising exposure and have suspended all face-to-face and community activities until further notice.

However, a number of Support Services are still operating as follows:

  • 13 11 20 will still continue to provide cancer-related information and support to callers from 9am-5pm Mon-Fri as per usual. Call 13 11 20 or email questions@cancerwa.asn.au.
  • Regional Cancer Support Coordinators are still continuing to support new and existing patients and provide psychosocial support services through telephone or telehealth consults. Regional Centres will be closed to visitors in person until further notice. Up-to-date Cancer Support Coordinator details can be found on the contact us page.
  • Although Wig Services have all been suspended, clients can still order headwear via the Products by Post service; and donations to the Wig Service are still gratefully received at Milroy Lodge. Visit the wig service page for more information. To order headwear, please fill out the wig service product request form.
  • Publications can still be ordered via the order form, however it's also a great opportunity to check out the eBooks or to download your own booklets and factsheets for immediate access.
  • Financial Hardship Program is still providing support, especially with Foodbank and Woolworths food vouchers and BP fuel vouchers. Health professionals and Cancer Support Coordinators are encouraged to continue submitting referrals to financial.assistance@cancerwa.asn.au.
  • Counselling and pro bono services are still providing support to clients. Health professionals and Cancer Support Coordinators are encouraged to continue submitting referrals to counselling@cancerwa.asn.au and a probono@cancerwa.asn.au.
  • Wellbeing after Cancer is continuing to offer support to people whose cancer treatment has finished. Visit the Wellbeing after Cancer page for more information  or submit a request a callback online form to receive some lifestyle coaching.
  • All state wide CCWA Complementary Therapy, Life Now classes, Wig Services, Support Groups and Regional Transport to Treatment services are suspended until further notice.
  • The Accommodation Lodges are still taking bookings.  However, they are guided by federal, state and health department advice and note that the Covid-19 situation is changing rapidly, so the best recommendation is for callers to get in contact with the Lodges directly so that accommodation service staff can assist them with specific queries. A higher volume of calls is being experienced; however staff are following up on message bank calls asap. Only essential visitors are allowed at the lodges.

For specific advice around your individual risk please contact your treatment team for advice. We cannot advise on specific cases - your treating doctor/team is best placed to do this. You should continue to follow any specific advice or standard precautions recommended to you by your health care practitioners to minimise your risk of any infection, during and after treatment.

We will continue to monitor the situation and act on the advice of public health professionals and WA and Federal Governments.

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