What does coronavirus mean for my treatment?

If you are having tests or treatment for pancreatic cancer, your GP surgery and hospital will have procedures in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus.

Speak to your medical team about what coronavirus might mean for your treatment. Each situation will be specific to the individual person, and different GP surgeries and hospitals will be doing things slightly differently. Your doctor or nurse can talk through what it means for you.

The NHS may provide support remotely where possible – for example by telephone, email or Skype. Some hospital appointments may be changed, so confirm your appointment before travelling to the hospital.

There will be procedures in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus. For example, there will be social distancing in waiting rooms, and you may be asked not to arrive early for your appointment. The doctors and nurses will be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a face mask and gloves. You will need to wear a mask at the hospital or GP surgery – unless you are staying overnight at the hospital (an inpatient).

Having tests or surgery

If you are going to hospital for a procedure such as tests or surgery, your doctor should talk to you about the benefits of having the procedure and the possible risks of coronavirus. Your treatment might be delayed if you have symptoms of coronavirus, are self-isolating after being contacted by the test and trace programme, or have tested positive for coronavirus. If this happens, talk to the medical team about rearranging your appointment.

You should reduce your risk of getting coronavirus before going to hospital by minimising contact with others. You may need to self-isolate for 14 days beforehand, especially if you are at greater risk from coronavirus. You will need to carefully follow social distancing and hand hygiene for 14 days before going to hospital.

The hospital will check if you have symptoms of coronavirus. For example, they may call you to ask about any symptoms the day before your appointment, and when you arrive at the hospital.

If you need to have anaesthetic or sedation as part of your test or treatment, you may need to have a test for coronavirus 3 days before you go to hospital. You may also need to self-isolate from the day you have the test. For example, you will have sedation and a local anaesthetic if you are having an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) or ERCP, or having a stent put in. You will have local anaesthetic for a biopsy, and a general anaesthetic for surgery.

If you need to stay in hospital, there may be a limit to how many visitors you can have. This is to help reduce the risk of coronavirus. It is a good idea to take a mobile phone or tablet and charger with you, so that you can talk to family and friends while you’re in hospital.

After you have had your test or treatment, the doctor or nurse should explain what to do if you get symptoms of coronavirus within 3 weeks after leaving hospital. They will also explain about any further care you might need.

Having chemotherapy

If you are having chemotherapy, you are at higher risk of getting seriously unwell from coronavirus. The medical team will take precautions to reduce the risk of you catching coronavirus. For example, they will only ask you to come to the hospital when necessary.

Chemotherapy and infections

If you are having chemotherapy, you are at higher risk of getting any infection, not just coronavirus. This means that it may not be clear whether symptoms are coronavirus or another infection. Read more about infections and chemotherapy.

If you have symptoms your chemotherapy team will check whether you have coronavirus or another infection, and the treatment you need. You may not necessarily have the standard symptoms of coronavirus. For example, not everyone will feel hot – some people with a very high temperature will feel cold and shivery.

Your chemotherapy may be changed to try to reduce the chance of you getting an infection such as coronavirus. For example, your chemotherapy might be delayed, you might have a break in your chemotherapy, or you might have a different chemotherapy drug or combination of drugs. Decisions about any changes will be specific to your own situation, so talk to your doctor about any changes, and the risks and benefits of these.

If you have symptoms of an infection

If you get any symptoms of an infection call the emergency number your chemotherapy team will have given you. If you can’t get through, contact your clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or medical team. You could also try the consultant’s secretary or hospital switchboard if you struggle to get through to your medical team.

If you still can’t get through, call 111, or 999 if it’s an emergency.

If you live in Scotland and get symptoms, you can also call the Cancer Treatment Helpline on 0800 917 7711 as well as the emergency number from your chemotherapy team.

If you are being cared for at home

If you are being cared for at home, your doctor or nurse may provide support over the phone. If you need more support, ask them to visit you at home. They will be able to take precautions, such as wearing a mask and gloves.

The GOV.UK website has some information about accessing care.

Getting information and support

You will probably have worries or questions about how coronavirus will affect your treatment. Speak to your doctor or nurse with any questions. You could also check your hospital website for information about current measures.

You can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line with any questions. They can provide information tailored to your situation.

Read more about what treatment and appointments may be like at the moment in our blog.

Speak to our nurses

Update 6 November 2020