Coronavirus and bowel cancer
Page updated: Monday 20 November 2023
When you have bowel cancer you may be at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell from coronavirus (COVID-19). This is because cancer and its treatment can weaken your immune system. This means your body is less able to protect you from coronavirus infection. People who are at higher risk of becoming unwell were called clinically extremely vulnerable in the early stages of the pandemic.
There are steps you can take to help keep yourself safe. Those who have previously been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to follow the same guidance as the general public on staying safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
If you're unsure of your risk and what measures you should be taking you should speak with your hospital specialist. It's important that you do what you're comfortable with. This may be particularly relevant for patients who are receiving end of life care.
The Government will continue to assess the situation and the risks posed by COVID-19 and based on clinical advice, will respond accordingly to keep the most vulnerable safe.
If you feel unwell
If you experience sweats, coughing or shivering and you're receiving cancer treatment you should first contact:
- your 24/7 chemotherapy care line. If the chemotherapy care line isn't available in your area, speak to your clinical team about who you should call in this situation
- the Acute Oncology Service at your hospital
In an emergency, call 999 if you're seriously ill.
Practical ways to reduce your risk of coronavirus
It's still possible to catch coronavirus, even if you're fully vaccinated. This is why it's still important to stay cautious.
- Wash your hands and clean your surroundings regularly
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Wear a face covering in enclosed spaces and on public transport
- Let fresh air in if meeting others indoors
- Make space and exercise caution when meeting with people you don’t live with to help keep you and your loved ones safe
An effective vaccine is the best way to protect people from coronavirus and will save thousands of lives.
For all our information and advice on the COVID-19 vaccine and booster programme for people with bowel cancer, please visit our dedicated webpage.
Getting tested for COVID-19
Tests for COVID-19 are no longer free for most people. Some people can still get free tests if:
- you have a health condition which means you're eligible for COVID-19 treatments
- you're going into hospital
- you work in the NHS or in adult social care
Treatments for COVID-19
The NHS is offering treatments to people with COVID-19 who are at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill, including some people with bowel cancer. If you have COVID-19 and are having treatment for bowel cancer, speak to your healthcare team to find out which treatment is best for you. More information about treatments for COVID-19 can be found on the NHS website.
Look after your mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19 by visiting the NHS website.
There's also information and support about emotional wellbeing on our website.
For some people, the symptoms of COVID-19 can last longer than 12 weeks. This is called long COVID or post COVID-19 syndrome. Information about long COVID can be found on the NHS website.
Long COVID Support is a charity that offers support and information for those with the condition.
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