Having a diagnosis of cancer can be extremely stressful, but particularly now during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Updated 11 February 2022
People with compromised immune systems or pre-existing medical conditions, including cancer, may be at increased risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) and increased risk of more severe infection.
For people being treated for cancer, especially those who are immunocompromised, and for family members in close contact, it is important that you continue to practice social distancing and good hygiene, and limit family and social contact. Consult your doctor or cancer treatment team if you have any queries about your personal situation.
Whether you have cancer currently, had cancer in the past, or are caring for a loved one with cancer, the situation may be more challenging than usual. Your treatment team and all those working in cancer support and care, are working as hard as we can to make sure that you receive the best treatment and outcomes possible.
Our knowledge about COVID-19 is changing rapidly. If you are receiving cancer treatment that suppresses your immune system and you develop a fever or respiratory symptoms, call your oncologist or a member of your treatment team, as you usually would if you develop a fever while on treatment. Be sure to follow their guidance on actions to take.
For information about managing your cancer care in the context of COVID-19 infection, including making decisions about your treatment and care if you test positive to COVID-19, visit Managing your cancer care in the context of COVID-19.
|For information about COVID-19 vaccines for people affected by cancer, visit Cancer Australia’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about COVID-19 vaccines for people affected by cancer. These FAQs are updated regularly as new information and evidence emerges.|
Practise good hygiene
Everyone should practice good hygiene and physical distancing to protect against infection, including people who have had cancer and family, friends and carers of people at increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19.
Good hygiene and taking care when interacting with other people are the best defences for you and your family against COVID-19. We recommend that you:
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue.
- Put used tissues straight into the bin.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitisers.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Stay 1.5 metres away from other people. This is called physical distancing.
- Wear a face mask when you can’t physically distance from others.
- Avoid close contact with others, such as touching.
- If you are sick, stay at home and avoid contact with others.
- Avoid contact with people in the community who are unwell.
- Avoid non-essential travel.
For people with cancer
For people at increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19, such as people receiving treatment for cancer, and people living with metastatic cancer
As well as practising good hygiene:
- Ensure you have adequate prescription and over-the-counter medications.
- Think about having the chemist deliver your medicines.
- When you need to go out in public, keep space between yourself and others, avoid crowds, stay away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- For people at increased risk of severe COVID-19 because of older age or chronic illness or if you are having chemotherapy or radiotherapy, physical distancing is most important. If you cannot maintain physical distance, wearing a mask is an important protective measure.
- For people who choose to wear a mask it is important to wear it properly:
- wash or sanitise your hands before putting it on or taking it off
- make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face
- do not touch the front of your mask while wearing or removing it
- do not allow the mask to hang around your neck or under your nose
- do not reuse single use masks; wash and dry reusable masks after use and store in a clean dry place.
For more information:
- Australian Government Advice for people at risk of coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Australian Government Should I wear a face mask in public?
- World Health Organization Q&A: Masks and COVID-19
- World Health Organization Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: When and how to use masks
- The Lung Foundation of Australia has released an FAQ What you need to know about COVID-19
- Breast Cancer Network Australia has answers to some frequently asked questions about COVID-19.
It is important to have your influenza vaccination as early in the flu season as possible.
Coronavirus Health Information Line
Call this line if you are seeking information on novel coronavirus. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Phone: 1800 020 080
The Cancer Council Helpline
Cancer Council is a free, confidential telephone information and support service run by Cancer Councils in each state and territory. Call if you have a question about cancer, or if you're seeking emotional or practical support.
Phone: 13 11 20
For information about caring for someone during the COVID-19 pandemic, including resources to guide end-of-life caring, visit carerhelp.com.au.
Indigenous and multicultural resources
Links to resources and information for people with cancer, families and carers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups and multicultural communities on COVID-19
- Cancer Australia has developed an information resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with cancer - Cancer and COVID-19 – what it means for our Mob
Cancer Council Australia has published ‘Cancer and COVID-19: Information in your language’ information and resource sheets for people with cancer, including translations into other languages
- Chinese (simplified)
- Chinese (traditional)
Phone: 1800 020 080
Non-urgent elective surgeries
During COVID-19 outbreaks, non-urgent elective surgery may be temporarily suspended in affected states and territories across Australia. This measure is to ensure the resources and capacity required for the COVID-19 response are maintained during the outbreak.
In the event of temporary suspension of non-urgent elective surgery, emergency surgery and urgent elective surgery should continue unaffected whenever possible.
If you have an upcoming cancer surgery, or if you have any questions, talk to your treatment team to determine the best course of action for your individual needs.
More information and resources
Useful COVID-19 information links
- Current status on COVID-19 in Australia - Department of Health (Australia)
- COVID-19 Consumer messaging kit - HealthDirect’s answers to questions and Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptom checker and COVID -19 Restriction Checker
- Advice for the public about COVID-19- World Health Organization
- The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO): Coronavirus and COVID-19: What People With Cancer Need to Know
- Cancer Australia’s Cancer care for cancer patients with COVID-19