Symptoms from COVID-19 can be mild to severe and can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include aches and pains, nasal congestion or runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhoea. Some people who are infected may not develop symptoms, however.
Some people with cancer, including brain tumour patients, are more at risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract the COVID-19 infection. Those at highest risk include:
- People having chemotherapy, or who have received chemotherapy in the last three months
- People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors
- People having intensive (radical) radiotherapy for lung cancer
- People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
- People with some types of blood cancer which damage the immune system, even if they have not needed treatment (for example, chronic leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma).
(Source: One Cancer Voice briefing)
There is not currently a vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
The most important way for cancer patients to protect themselves is to avoid being exposed to COVID-19, whenever possible, follow guidance on travel restrictions issued by their country’s government and practice good hygiene.
General advice for cancer patients includes:
- Always thoroughly wash your hands well for 20 seconds with soap and hot water, especially before and after being in contact with other people, before eating or touching your face, and whenever you touch high-contact objects, such as handrails. If soap and water are not available, the advice is to use alcohol-based handwashes/gels.
- Be more careful about close contact with others and consider precautionary measures such as avoiding handshakes and kissing others on the cheek.
- Be more cautious at public events or large gatherings which could bring you into contact with people who may be carrying the virus.
- Ensure your workplace, extended family, and social networks are aware of your vulnerability to infection, and respectfully ask them to avoid contact or visits if they have any symptoms of potential illness, such as a high temperature, cough, sneezing, or headache, etc.
(Source: PCFA Consumer Advisory)
UPDATED advice [18 March 2020]:
- Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough;
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush
hour, when possible;
- Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this.
- Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs,
cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs
- Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology
such as phone, internet, and social media.
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.
(Source: One Cancer Voice FAQ)
Your clinician may recommend extra measures to minimise risk of exposure to COVID-19 infection.
The situation is changing rapidly, and country-specific guidance varies. Given the widespread reports of misinformation (commonly spread by social media channels) it is essential that brain tumour patients, their caregivers, family, workers and acquaintances stay up to date with the guidance specifics for your region by navigating directly to your country’s official health body and visiting that online page directly. Such official advice sites include:
The World Health Organisation Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak page: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
US NIH (National Institutes of Health) Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak page: https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus ; Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know: https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website (USA): https://www.coronavirus.gov/
The Government of Canada Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) webpage: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (EU) Coronavirus topic page: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/coronavirus
The NHS (UK) Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
The Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert page: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert
The EMA (European Medicine's Agency) has a dedicated webpage on COVID-19, where you can find all their latest updates including EMA’s advice on the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen) for COVID-19.
Governments also issue travel advice, for example UK travel advice and email alerts are available via www.gov.uk You can check your respective government websites for this type of information.