New cancer diagnosis and coronavirus

Wednesday 25 March 2020

At Maggie’s we understand that being diagnosed with cancer can be a real shock for you and your family and friends. It can bring up many different fears and emotions and can affect many different aspects of life, such as work, relationships with family and friends, finances, and physical and emotional health. It can make everything feel very uncertain. This is natural and people react in many different ways. It might be hard to take in information and to find the support that you need. You might find it helpful to read our page about coping with a new diagnosis

At the moment, being diagnosed with cancer can feel even more frightening and uncertain due to coronavirus. Here at Maggie’s we can support you with information to help you cope at this difficult time. 

If you have questions about coronavirus or your cancer and treatment, you can get help and support from our online community. You can send messages to our online team, including cancer support specialists and a benefits adviser. You can read other people's blogs about many different aspects of cancer. If you register, you can write your own blogs and journals and join our friendly and supportive online conversations. Each day we have live online chat discussions around our virtual kitchen table. There you can meet our cancer support specialists and people in similar situations to yours who understand how you feel. 

We have a network of support centres across the UK. At the moment they can't see you face to face due to the coronavirus restrictions but they can support you in other ways. Search for your nearest Maggie's centre to find their contact details. When you phone them a cancer support specialist, benefits adviser or psychologist will either take your call straightaway or get back to you as soon as possible. Or you can phone our general support number on 0300 123 1801.  

What is coronavirus? 

Coronavirus is a virus similar to flu. It causes an illness called COVID-19. The virus can affect people’s lungs and airways. The symptoms include a high temperature and continuous cough. Many people recover well from COVID-19 but for some people, the virus can cause serious illness and complications.

People who have low immunity are more at risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus. Some types of cancer like lymphoma or leukaemia and some cancer treatments can reduce immunity. This makes it harder to fight infections. It is important to take care to avoid infection and there are ways of reducing the risk of catching coronavirus.

What you can do to reduce your risk of coronavirus

You and anyone you live with need to wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitiser gel. Wash your hands as soon as you get back home if you have to go out. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze. Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards.

At the moment, the UK government has set out other guidance for everyone in the UK to reduce the risk of spreading or catching coronavirus. They call this social distancing and say that everyone needs to stay at home and only go outside once a day for food or health reasons or to exercise. They also say that everyone should work from home if they can. This is very important for you, and your employer should help you to be able to do this if you want to keep working. 

You also need to stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people if you go out.

If you have low immunity your doctors will advise you not to go out at all and you will need to have help from friends and family to do shopping. The health service will send you a letter advising you what you need to do to protect yourself. This can feel very scary and isolating at a time when you might want to be close to your friends and family and need support from them.

Coping with staying at home

You can keep in touch with friends and family by phone, or online, or on social media. There are ways of being very creative with this, like meeting friends online for brunch or dinner or going to a 'virtual pub' online together. 

You can join the Maggie's online community to contact our support specialists, talk to people who understand what you are going through, and make new friends. Or you can contact our centres.

It can help to keep yourself busy and you could try activities like cooking, reading, indoor hobbies or online learning. There are some good ideas on our blog post about coronavirus and isolation. You could try our relaxation exercises or check out our mindfulness resources. It is possible to do light exercises at home or in your garden and there are some tips on our exercise and cancer page

Effects on tests or treatment

You might worry that the coronavirus restrictions could affect your tests or treatment. But your treatment team will make sure that you have all the tests and treatment that you need for your cancer. They will try to reduce the need for you to go outside or to travel, so that you lower the risk of catching coronavirus as much as possible. This means that you might have some appointments by phone or video calls instead of going to the hospital.

Your doctors might need to adjust your treatment or delay starting it for a while. This might feel worrying but they will explain your treatment options to you and advise you what to do to protect yourself while the coronavirus restrictions are in place. Things are changing all the time and you can get up to date advice on the website.

Travelling to appointments

If you do need to travel to the hospital it is best to avoid public transport if you can and to go by car or taxi. If you need help with travel costs you can contact our online benefits adviser, call your local Maggie’s centre, or call our general support number. It is best to use phone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services so that you don’t need to travel.

Having contact with other people can really help you to feel less alone. So please feel very welcome to get in touch with us here at Maggie’s for information and support, to find out more about us, or to take part in our online community.

We look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes


Updated April 2020

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Useful links

Advice on Coronavirus for people with cancer (PDF)    One Cancer Voice
Guidance on social distancing and for vulnerable adults

Advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do

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