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Making sense of it all

Posted by: Lynne and Emma 17 April 2020

Hello, we are Lynne and Emma, specialist nurses at Pancreatic Cancer UK. In this worrying and uncertain time we wanted to give you regular updates and guidance on the latest NHS and government advice and what it could mean for you if you or a loved one has pancreatic cancer.

Coronavirus has caused worry across the world, with debate, discussion and advice being everywhere you turn. It’s on every news bulletin and all over social media but it’s not always clear on what information is correct or what the advice means to you as an individual. Particularly if you have pancreatic cancer you may have some specific worries, like:

• Does having pancreatic cancer mean you are more at risk of getting coronavirus?
• What can you do to keep safe?
• Will this affect your treatment?
• How will this impact family life?

Hopefully this blog can help to make sense of some of the information and advice we are getting during this time.

We are all being asked to stay at home as much as possible; you may have heard this called ‘social distancing’. However, you might have also received some additional advice to this, and we will explain why this might be in this blog. We also have lots of useful information and videos on our website which we’ll link to.

I think the first thing to stress is that everyone’s situation is going to be different. The best way of getting information and advice that is specific to you is to get in touch with your hospital team.

If you are currently undergoing chemotherapy or immunotherapy or you have recently completed treatment then you should have received a letter from the government asking you to stay at home 12 weeks. You may have heard this called ‘shielding’. You may be wondering why you are being asked to stay at home for a longer period of time than other people. This is because you are more likely to become seriously unwell if you get the coronavirus. I know this seems like a long time, but these treatments affect your immune system so asking you to stay at home and avoid all contact with people outside of your household is the most effective way of keeping you safe.

We explain more about the terminology in this video.

You may usually see family and friends who live outside of your home, so being asked to not see them right now can be hard, and it might make you feel isolated. There are things you can do to keep in touch and feel connected such as video chat or face time. We have some hints and tips on our website that might be helpful to you on keeping busy and trying to reduce the emotional impact of current events

If you have previously had treatment but this was some time ago you are much less likely to become seriously unwell if you get the coronavirus. But to keep as safe as possible you are being asked to stay at home as much as possible, adopting social distancing practices.

If you have recently had surgery to remove your cancer, or have ever had your spleen removed, or if you are over 70 or have diabetes you are also being asked to adopt social distancing practices. Although everyone in the country is being asked to do this, it’s particularly important for you as you may be at more risk of getting ill from coronavirus.

Your hospital teams will be doing everything they can to reduce the impact the coronavirus will have on you and your care. You may normally see your team in hospital, but they may be asking you to have this review in a different way (telephone or video chat), or some appointments may be postponed. Although this feels unusual and might cause you some worry it is to reduce the amount of people coming into the hospital, reducing the chance of spreading the virus and keeping you, your family and the treating teams safe.

Here we provide more information about treatment and the coronavirus. 

While all this is going on you may still be having symptoms from pancreatic cancer or side effects from your treatment. It is so important that these are still taken care of alongside keeping safe during this time. Please seek advice on how to manage symptoms and side effects as soon as possible by contacting your hospital team or your GP.

You can of course speak to one of our nurse specialists on the Support Line for information and support. You can get in touch via email at nurse@pancreaticcancer.org.uk or pick up the phone and call them on 0808 801 0707

Thanks for reading our first blog. If you’ve found it useful, you can sign up to get regular updates from us. We know things are tough at the moment but stay safe.

Sign up for coronvirus updates here

Lynne & Emma