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.
Read all of our information about coronavirus
- What is the coronavirus (COVID-19)?
- How will coronavirus affect people with pancreatic cancer?
- What does coronavirus mean for my treatment?
- Coronavirus information for people with symptoms of pancreatic cancer
- Information for families about coronavirus and pancreatic cancer
- Dealing with the emotional impact of coronavirus and pancreatic cancer
- Dealing with the practical impact of coronavirus and pancreatic cancer
- Coronavirus vaccine and pancreatic cancer
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.
Shielding has been started again in England, but is paused in the rest of the country – read more about this.
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.
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
Restrictions across the UK
There are different restrictions in place across the UK nations.
In England, there is now a lockdown from 5 January 2021. This means that you should stay at home, and only leave home for specific reasons, including:
- to shop for essentials
- for exercise, either with your household or support bubble, or with one other person
- to meet people in your support bubble
- for medical care
- to go to work if you can’t work from home – but you should work from home if you can.
If you do go out, you should stay local. You should not meet socially with people you don’t live with or aren’t in a support bubble with.
Shielding has been started again for clinically extremely vulnerable people in England – read more about this below.
Read the guidance for England.
In Scotland, from 5 January 2021 there is a lockdown across the mainland until at least the end of January 2021. Some islands remain in protection level 3.
- If you live in mainland Scotland, you must stay at home as much as possible.
- You can go out for exercise and shopping, but stay as close to home as possible, and maintain social distancing. Try to shop online if possible.
- Work from home if you can.
- You can meet one other person who you don’t live with outside, but follow social distancing guidance.
- You can still see people in your extended household.
Read more on Scottish government website.
In Wales, there are 4 alert levels:
Read more about the restrictions in Wales. From 20 December, all of Wales is in Alert level 4. This means you should stay at home as much as possible, and not meet people you don’t live with or aren’t already in a support bubble with.
In Northern Ireland, new restrictions will apply from 26 December 2020 for 6 weeks.
- You should 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 6 people from two households can meet outdoors in a public place.
- You should still go to medical appointments.
Read more about the restrictions in Northern Ireland.
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, shielding has been started again. You can read more about this below. The government 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 are being told to shield again during the lockdown. This means you should:
- stay at home as much as possible
- only go out for exercise, medical appointments or if it’s essential
- you can still meet people in your support bubble
- don’t meet people you don’t live with or aren’t in a support bubble with – although you can meet one person you don’t live with outdoors for exercise, but stay 2 metres away
- try to stay 2 metres away from people you live with or are in a support bubble with
- you can still get care at home from people in your support bubble, or from professionals
- work from home if you can, but if you can’t work from home don’t go to work – your employer may be able to furlough you, or you may be entitled to statutory sick pay
- avoid going to the shops – instead shop online or ask family or friends to shop for you. You can register for priority online supermarket shopping.
Read more about the guidance in England if you are extremely vulnerable.
If you live in Scotland
Mainland Scotland is in lockdown for January 2021. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, the chief medical officer will be writing 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
You should follow the advice for the alert level you are in.
In Alert level 4:
- Don’t meet with people you don’t live with or aren’t in a support bubble with.
- 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 to the shops. Shop online or ask family, neighbours or friends to shop for you.
- Ask family or neighbours to pick up prescriptions for you, or ask your pharmacy to deliver your medicines.
- 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 the advice for Wales.
If you live in Northern Ireland
You should follow the same guidance as everyone else.
- 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.
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.
Updated: 19 January 2021