Cancer and coronavirus – important tips for staying well

If you have cancer or know someone who does, it’s understandable you might be worried about coronavirus. Dr Charlotte Rayner, Consultant Physician at Parkside Private Hospital, answers some of the key questions.

Coronavirus and the immune system

Coronavirus is a viral infection that affects the lungs. The first line of defence against Covid-19 is the body’s immune response. Anyone who has a weakened immune system is more at risk of being seriously ill if they get coronavirus.

Some types of cancer such as lymphoma and leukaemia can affect your immune system, and some cancer treatments, for example chemotherapy, immunotherapy and some types of radiotherapy may impair the immune response to Covid-19. It’s therefore important to follow the advice from the NHS and your healthcare team.

How can I distinguish Covid-19 from a cold?

As we move into the winter months it may be difficult to distinguish symptoms of Covid-19 from other respiratory infections. A mild case of coronavirus might seem like a bad flu. You may start feeling feverish and have chills, your muscles may ache and you may feel sick. The main symptoms of Covid-19 are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

Individuals with coronavirus may have one or all of the above symptoms. If you suspect you have the virus, get a test and stay at home until you get your result. If your condition worsens call NHS 111 for advice.

How can I protect myself?

Your healthcare provider will give you personalised information on how to protect yourself from Covid-19 during your cancer treatment. Eating a well-balanced diet, taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is important to strengthen your immune system and keep you fit and strong. You may also wish to have the annual flu vaccination.

I’m self-isolating at home. What help is there?

A few simple steps can help with your wellbeing. These include developing a routine, starting a home exercise programme, keeping well hydrated and eating a balanced diet. It’s also important to stay in touch with friends and family, and ensure you have access or support for getting essentials like food and prescriptions. Further support and advice on cancer care and wellbeing is available from organisations such as Macmillan and Mind.

About Dr Rayner

Dr Rayner is a Consultant Physician at Parkside Private Hospital, which supports patients with most conditions, from initial consultation and diagnosis, through to treatment and rehabilitation.

Treatments are available to insured patients and self-paying patients.

To find out more email or call 020 3918 9463.

Date: 20/10/2020