How will coronavirus affect people with pancreatic cancer?

Find out what coronavirus (COVID-19) means for you if you have pancreatic cancer, and how it may affect you.

This page explains who may be at risk of becoming more seriously ill if they were to get coronavirus, and information for people who were shielding – such as people having chemotherapy. There is also information about what social distancing guidance means for people with pancreatic cancer, and support bubbles and extended households.

The information here is based on the national guidance across the UK. It was accurate at the time of publishing, and we update the information regularly, but things are often changing quickly. Check what the guidance is for you locally in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Who is more at risk of getting ill from coronavirus?

Some people with pancreatic cancer are more at risk of becoming seriously ill if they get coronavirus. You may hear the term “clinically extremely vulnerable” to describe this risk. These people were asked to shield at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. They include:

  • People who have cancer and are having chemotherapy. This is because chemotherapy weakens the immune system, making it harder for your body to fight an infection.
  • People who have had their spleen removed, because the spleen is part of the immune system. Some surgery for pancreatic cancer involves removing the spleen.
  • People having immunotherapy will also be more at risk. There is an immunotherapy clinical trial for pancreatic cancer. This is why they were asked to shield for the last few months.

Even if you are not currently having chemotherapy, you should still be careful about protecting yourself from coronavirus. Some people may be more at risk of getting ill if they get coronavirus. This includes:

  • people with a weakened immune system from chemotherapy
  • people having radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy
  • people over 70
  • people with diabetes
  • people who are still recovering from surgery.

People with diabetes

If you have diabetes, try to manage your diabetes carefully, control your blood sugar levels as well as possible, and follow social distancing guidance. You should contact your GP or diabetes team if you have any concerns about managing your diabetes. We have more information about managing diabetes if you have pancreatic cancer. Diabetes UK have information about diabetes and coronavirus, and how to get support from your medical team.

People at higher risk from coronavirus should have been offered the vaccine

Read more about the vaccine

What is the guidance on social distancing?

In England and Wales, people can make a personal choice on whether to keep their distance from people they meet. Everyone should still be cautious though.

Social distancing of 1 metre is still required in Scotland with anyone other than your social group. Read more on the Scottish government website. In Northern Ireland, social distancing is still required except for with your extended household. Read more about this on the nidirect.gov website.

We know that if you have pancreatic cancer, you may be worried about what the lifting of restrictions mean for you, and how to keep yourself safe. You should have been offered the vaccine – make sure you have both doses to get the best protection from coronavirus. There are also other precautions you can take to help protect yourself. And there is specific advice for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

  • Think about how close you want to get to friends and family. The further away you stay from other people, and the less time you spend in close contact with them, the less likely you are to catch coronavirus.
  • Try to stay at least 2 metres away from people you are not meeting with.
  • Limit how many people you see in a short period of time. The more people you see, the more risk there is of catching coronavirus.
  • Try to meet outside if you can – there is less chance of coronavirus spreading outside.
  • If you do meet indoors, make sure the room is well ventilated by opening windows and doors.
  • Wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitiser outside your home. Don’t touch your face.
  • Wear a face covering in public indoor spaces when required.
  • Don’t meet with anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, or anyone who has been told to self-isolate by the test and trace programme.
  • Most government guidance is now ‘advice’ rather than ‘regulations’. This means it is not a legal requirement. You should continue to follow the guidance, even if you have had the vaccine.

The guidance on social distancing is slightly different in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so check the advice for where you live.

Restrictions across the UK

There are different restrictions in place across the UK nations.

England

In England, all legal restrictions related to coronavirus have been lifted from 19 July. That means, for example, that there are no limits to the number of people who can meet indoors and outdoors, and you don’t have to socially distance. But think carefully about this. You should still be cautious as coronavirus is still spreading. Be particularly careful if you are clinically extremely vulnerable.

It is still safer to meet outside. If you do meet inside, open windows and doors to keep the room ventilated.

It’s no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering. But the government still recommends that you do wear one in crowded places such as public transport, and some places like shops may ask you to.

You can get regular free tests for coronavirus. Rapid lateral flow tests are available from pharmacies, coronavirus testing sites and employers. Testing twice a week will help make sure you don’t have coronavirus.

The government is no longer advising people to work from home if they can. But if your employer will still let you work from home, you might want to do this. If you are asked to return to your workplace, your employer must explain how they are making it safe for you.

Read the guidance for England.

Scotland

From 19 July, all of Scotland is on protection level 0. Be aware that some restrictions still apply at this level.

In protection level 0:

  • you can meet in groups of 8 from 4 households indoors, and stay overnight
  • up to 15 people from 15 households can meet outdoors
  • up to 10 people from 4 households can meet in an indoor public place like a café – but you will need to keep 1 metre from others
  • you don’t have to keep your distance from friends and family in a private place
  • everyone is encouraged to get regular lateral flow tests
  • work from home if you can.

Read more on the Scottish government website.

Wales

From 17 July, all of Wales is in alert level 1.

  • You can meet members of your extended household indoors. Up to 6 people from up to 6 households, or two households, can meet indoors and stay overnight.
  • Up to 6 people can meet in public indoor spaces.
  • There are no restrictions on the number of people who can meet outdoors, including in private gardens. But you should make your own decision about what you feel comfortable with. It is advised that people avoid large gatherings.
  • You should still limit the number of people you see.
  • Follow social distancing and stay 2 metres from people you don’t live with or are not in an extended household with.
  • Wear a face mask in indoor public spaces and public transport.
  • Work from home if you can.

On 7 August, the Welsh Government plans to move to alert level 0, but this may change. Read the guidance in Wales.

Northern Ireland

Regulations remain in place in Northern Ireland.

  • Up to 6 people from no more than 2 households can meet in a private home and stay overnight. You should follow social distancing as much as possible and open windows and doors to ventilate rooms.
  • Up to 15 people can meet outdoors in a private garden, but you should follow social distancing.
  • You should still go to medical appointments.

Read more about the restrictions in Northern Ireland.

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People with pancreatic cancer who were shielding

People who are extremely vulnerable and at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus were advised by the NHS to shield during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. This includes people with cancer who are having chemotherapy. People who have recently finished chemotherapy may also be at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. It also includes people having immunotherapy.

Shielding has now been stopped across the UK. But you are still at higher risk of getting very ill if you get coronavirus. So it is very important that you follow the guidance very carefully.

You should have been offered the vaccine. Make sure you have both the first and second dose, to get the best protection. You should still be careful to keep yourself safe after having the vaccine.

The government guidance for people who were shielding is to follow the advice for everyone else in your area. Read the current advice for people who have been shielding in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You may feel worried about restrictions lifting, and keeping yourself safe. You can read more about things you can do to stay safe.

It’s important that you continue to get medical care if you need it. The NHS is taking precautions to keep people safe. Read more about cancer care at the moment.

It is ok to have visits from professionals providing healthcare or personal care as long as they don’t have symptoms of coronavirus and thoroughly wash their hands. You should also continue to go to medical appointments, and contact health services in an emergency.

If you live in England

You should follow the rules for everyone else, and there is guidance to help keep yourself safe.

  • It is a personal choice how close you get to friends and family. But be careful, and think about the risks. If you decide you would rather stay 2 metres away from people, explain this to them.
  • You might want to wait until 14 days after your second dose of the vaccine before being close to others.
  • Meet friends and family outdoors if possible. If you do meet indoors, make sure there is good ventilation by opening windows and doors.
  • You could ask friends and family to take a lateral flow test before meeting you. You can get these for free from pharmacies.
  • Limit how many people you meet with in a short space of time.
  • Although the government is no longer advising people to work from home, you might want to work from home if you can. If you can’t work from home, you can go to work – your employer should be taking measures to keep you safe.
  • Make sure you go to any medical appointments.
  • Carers can continue to visit you at home.
  • If you go to the shops, try to maintain social distancing and go at quieter times. Be aware that shops are no longer offering priority online shopping, but you can book online shopping in the normal way. If you can’t shop online or visit the shops yourself, the NHS Volunteer Responders programme may be able to help you.

Read more about staying safe if you do go out.

Read more about the guidance in England if you are extremely vulnerable.

If you live in Scotland

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, follow the guidance to keep yourself safe.

  • Reduce the number of people you have face to face contact with.
  • Avoid places where you can’t be more than 1 metre away from others.
  • You can go outside for exercise.
  • You can go out for shopping or to the pharmacy, but try to go at quieter times, and carefully follow social distancing. Your pharmacy may be able to deliver medicines.
  • Work from home if you can. If you can’t work from home, your employer should take measures to keep you safe.
  • Go to any medical appointments you have. If you are having care at home, this can continue.

Read more on the Scottish government website.

If you live in Wales

There is guidance to help keep yourself safe.

  • Keep contact with people you don’t live with or aren’t in an extended household with to a minimum. Only meet people outside and maintain social distancing with anyone you don’t live with.
  • If you can’t work from home, you can go to work, as long as your workplace has measures in place to keep you safe.
  • Wash your hands regularly, avoid touching surfaces that others have touched, and wear a face covering in indoor public spaces.
  • Continue going to medical appointments. Your medical team will let you know if your care will change at all.
  • If you have care at home, this can continue.

Read more about staying safe if you do go out.

Read the advice for Wales.

If you live in Northern Ireland

Follow the same rules as for everyone else, but be particularly careful. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you are advised to take extra precautions. For example:

  • Limit how many people you see.
  • You might want to go to places like shops and cafés at quieter times.
  • Follow social distancing, and continue to wear a face covering.
  • Try to spend as little time as possible in public indoor places.
  • Hospitals, GP practices and pharmacies are still providing care.
  • If you have care at home, this can continue.
  • Work from home if you can. If you can’t work from home, you can go to work as long as your employer has taken measures to ensure social distancing.

Read more on the nidirect website.

There is support for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable in England and Scotland. And there may still be other support available. If you live in Wales, you can sign up to get updates about shielding sent via phone or email. In Northern Ireland, you can find out what help and support is available at the nidirect website.

If you are worried, or have questions about coronavirus, you can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.

Staying safe if you go out

If you do go out at the moment, it’s important that you are careful and take precautions to keep yourself safe. You are still at risk of getting seriously ill if you get coronavirus. If you are worried about what this means for you, speak to your medical team.

  • Follow the guidance for the area you live in.
  • If you do go out, try to stay 2 metres away from people you aren’t socialising with. In Wales and Northern Ireland, you should stay 2 metres away from people you don’t live with.
  • Use hand sanitiser when you are out, and don’t touch your face.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after you’ve been out.
  • You could try going out when there are fewer people around – for example early mornings, and try to stick to open spaces.
  • Try to limit the number of people you see – the fewer people you see, the lower the risk of catching coronavirus.
  • If you go into shops or other enclosed spaces, wear a face covering.
  • Don’t share anything with others – for example cups or drinks bottles.
  • You should strictly avoid contact with anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus.
  • The government has produced some cards that you can print or download on your mobile phone, asking others to give you space, if you have concerns about social distancing. Get the cards on the GOV.UK website.

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If it is some time since you had pancreatic cancer treatment

If it is some time since you had treatment such as chemotherapy or surgery (unless you had your spleen removed), you will be at lower risk of becoming seriously ill – unless you have other health conditions that increase your risk. But make sure you follow the advice about social distancing above. You can read more on the GOV.UK website.

Support bubbles and extended households

If you live in England or Scotland, you no longer need to form support bubbles or extended households. The previous restrictions on how many people you can meet indoors or who can stay overnight have been significantly eased. There are still some limits in Scotland – read more on the gov.scot website.

A support bubble or extended household means that you would be able to meet with people in the support bubble or extended household indoors as well as outside, be less than 2 metres apart and stay overnight. You would effectively be able to act as if you were members of the same household.

Be aware that if you have pancreatic cancer you may be at risk of getting unwell from coronavirus. You are advised to bear this in mind when following the new guidance on how many people you can meet indoors.

If anyone in your extended household gets coronavirus symptoms, everyone should stay at home. If anyone is contacted as part of the test and trace programme, you should follow their guidance. If the person contacted gets coronavirus symptoms, everyone in the extended household must then isolate.

Read more about extended households in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Updated: 26 July 2021