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 have been 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 coronavirus. 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

You might have heard in the media that people with diabetes have an increased risk of getting ill from coronavirus. If you have diabetes, try to manage your diabetes carefully, control your blood sugar levels as well as possible, and follow social distancing rules. You should contact your GP or diabetes team if you have any concerns about managing your diabetes. Diabetes UK have information about diabetes and coronavirus, and how to get support from your medical team.

People at higher risk from coronavirus can now get the vaccine

Read more about the vaccine

What is the guidance on social distancing?

If you have pancreatic cancer you may still be more at risk of getting ill if you get coronavirus. Be very careful to follow the advice on hygiene and social distancing below.

  • Limit how many people you see. The more people you see, the more risk there is of catching coronavirus.
  • You should be particularly careful to minimise contact with people you don’t live with.
  • Carefully maintain social distancing with people you don’t live with, aiming to stay 2 metres away from others.
  • Wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitiser outside your home. Don’t touch your face.
  • Wear a face covering in public indoor spaces.
  • Be aware that there is a greater risk of coronavirus spreading indoors than outdoors.
  • Don’t meet with anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, or anyone who has been told to self-isolate by the test and trace programme

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.

In England, the “stay at home” rule has ended. You can now meet outside in groups of up to 6 people, or 2 households of any size – which can include your support bubble. You can meet in private gardens, as well as public places, and should maintain social distancing.

Some restrictions remain in place – for example, you must not socialise indoors with people you don’t live with or aren’t in a support bubble with. But if someone is providing care to someone who is vulnerable, they can still go into their home to do this. You must wear a face covering in indoor public places, should work from home if you can, and avoid travel if possible.

Read the guidance for England.

In Scotland, from 2 April, you no longer have to stay home, but you should stay local. Some islands remain in protection level 3.

  • You can go out for exercise and shopping, but stay local and maintain social distancing. Try to shop online if possible.
  • Work from home if you can.
  • Up to 4 adults from up to 2 households can meet outdoors, but follow social distancing guidance.
  • You can still see people in your extended household.

Read more on Scottish government website.

In Wales, the “stay local” guidance was lifted on 27 March. 6 people from 2 households can meet outdoors, as long as they maintain social distancing.

Some restrictions are still in place. For example, you must not meet indoors with people you don’t live with or aren’t in a support bubble with. You must wear a face covering in indoor public places.

Read the guidance in Wales.

In Northern Ireland, there are restrictions which mean you should stay at home.

  • Stay at home, although you can go out for specific reasons such as shopping or exercise.
  • You should not meet anyone you don’t live with or aren’t in a support bubble with indoors.
  • Up to 10 people from two households can meet outdoors in a public place. And up to 6 people from 2 households can meet in a private garden.
  • You should still go to medical appointments.

Read more about the restrictions in Northern Ireland.

[back to top]

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.

If you live in England or Wales, shielding has stopped from 1 April. You can read more about this below. The NHS will be writing to you about this.

Across the rest of the UK, there is some specific guidance for people who were shielding – read more about this below.

You are still at higher risk of getting very ill if you get coronavirus. So it is very important that you follow the social distancing guidance and any local restrictions very carefully.

Read the current advice for people who have been shielding in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Follow the guidance where you live. You can also read more about staying safe if you go out below.

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

People who are extremely vulnerable no longer need to shield. But you should continue to be careful to keep yourself safe. Limit how many people you meet with, and continue to maintain social distancing with anyone you don’t live with. You should work from home if you can. If you can’t work from home, you are advised not to go to work.

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, the chief medical officer will have written to you with guidance.

  • You should stay at home as much as possible.
  • Keep contact with people you don’t live with to a minimum.
  • If you see people in your extended household, be careful to follow guidance on washing your hands and cleaning surfaces.
  • You can still go outside for exercise.
  • You can go out for essential shopping or to the pharmacy, but try to go at quieter times, and carefully follow social distancing. You can sign up for priority online supermarket shopping.
  • Work from home if you can. If you can’t work from home, don’t go to work. You can use the letter from the chief medical officer as evidence for your employer that you can’t go into work.
  • If you are having care at home, this can continue.

Read more on the Scottish government website.

If you live in Wales

From 1 April, restrictions for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable are being relaxed. You will still be at higher risk from coronavirus, so should still take precautions to keep yourself safe.

  • Keep contact with people you don’t live with or aren’t in a support bubble 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

These recommendations are in place until 12 April.

  • You should be particularly careful about limiting contact with people you don’t live with, social distancing, hand washing and wearing a face covering.
  • Hospitals, GP practices and pharmacies are still providing care.
  • If you have care at home, this can continue.
  • You can still meet people in your support bubble, although you need to be particularly careful.
  • Work from home if you can. If you can’t work from home, you are advised not to go to work. Your employer may be able to furlough you, or you may be eligible for statutory sick pay.
  • Avoid going to the shops or pharmacy if possible. Ask friends, family or neighbours to pick up supplies for you or use online shopping. If you do need to go shopping try to go at quieter times, and be careful about 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.

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 outside

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.
  • You should still stay at home as much as possible.
  • If you do go out, take extra care to minimise contact with others by keeping 2 metres apart.
  • 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.

[back to top]

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 Wales and either you or someone close to you live alone or are a single parent, you could think about forming a “support bubble”. In Scotland, this is called an “extended household”. In Northern Ireland, two households can form a support bubble of any size – although a maximum of 10 people in the support bubble can meet at any one time.

A support bubble or extended household means that you would be able to meet with people in the support bubble indoors as well as outside, be less than 2 metres apart and stay overnight. It would include the whole household of the person who doesn’t live alone. You would effectively be able to act as if you were members of the same household. You should only form a support bubble with one other 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 thinking about forming a support bubble.

If anyone in your support bubble 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 support bubble or extended household must then isolate.

Read more about support bubbles in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Updated: 29 March 2021