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 how to stay safe

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?

People can make a personal choice on whether to keep their distance from people they meet. Everyone should still be cautious though.

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

In Scotland most restrictions were lifted from 9 August. A few restrictions are still in place.

  • You should still wear a face covering in most indoor public places. This includes healthcare settings, workplaces, public transport, shops and restaurants.
  • It is recommended that you wear a face covering in crowded outdoor places.
  • Social distance of 2 metres will remain in healthcare settings such as hospitals and GP surgeries.
  • Work from home, or do a mix of working at home and in the workplace if you can.
  • If you are contacted by test and trace, you don’t need to self-isolate if you have had both vaccine doses, don’t have symptoms, and have had a negative PCR test. Read more about symptoms and tests for coronavirus.

Read more on the Scottish government website.

Wales

All of Wales is in alert level 0.

  • There are no longer limits on how many people you can meet.
  • Follow social distancing and try to stay 2 metres from people you don’t live.
  • Wear a face mask in indoor public spaces and public transport.
  • Work from home if you can.

Read the guidance in Wales.

Northern Ireland

Regulations remain in place in Northern Ireland.

  • Up to 15 people from no more than 4 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.
  • There are no restrictions on how many people can meet outdoors in a private garden.
  • Try to follow social distancing, wear a face mask in public, and keep rooms well ventilated.
  • Face coverings should be worn on public transport.
  • 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.

Make sure you have both the first and second dose of the vaccine, and the third dose or booster if you have been offered it. This will give you the best protection from coronavirus. 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 are worried, or have questions about coronavirus, you can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.

Staying safe

It’s still 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.

  • Get the vaccine when you are offered it.
  • Make sure you go to any medical appointments.
  • Follow the guidance for the area you live in.
  • 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 you and others have had the second dose of the vaccine before being close to them.
  • 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.
  • If you do go out, try to stay 2 metres away from people you aren’t socialising 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 might want to go to places like shops and cafés at quieter times.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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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.

Updated: 4 October 2021