Beating bowel cancer together

Our Nurse Advisor answers your most common questions on coronavirus

Monday 11 May 2020

As the weeks go on, we know much of what is happening daily is creating many challenges for people affected by bowel cancer. Nurse Advisor, Charlotte Dawson, who works on our Ask the Nurse email service, answers some of the most common questions we’re being asked.

Our Ask the Nurse email service is here if you need us

Charlotte says: “These are unprecedented times and certainly like nothing I have experienced in my career. Our Ask the Nurse email service has been hearing from many of you concerned about coronavirus. We’ve heard how difficult it is to keep up-to-date with the latest guidance and understand what this means for you”.

“Our Ask the Nurse email service is dedicated to offering support to people with bowel cancer. We are here to give you accurate information and let you know about further support. If we don’t have the answers we’ll signpost you to who can help”.

Question: My bowel cancer treatment has been postponed or cancelled

We’re hearing from patients understandably very worried that their planned treatment or surgery has been delayed or cancelled. While we can’t comment on individual cases, we do know cancer experts have come together to look closely at how best to manage patients during this crisis. Oncologists and other specialists involved in the treatment of patients have been asked to prioritise urgent and essential cancer treatments. A decision is made for each and every individual patient to determine the risk caused by delays against the risk from the severe, possibly life-threatening complications from coronavirus. Any decisions about your treatment should always be discussed with you fully.  For tailored information for your individual circumstances or to raise any questions, we’d always advise contacting your specialist treatment team.

Question: I’m concerned about the ongoing impact on access to treatment

We have been closely monitoring information produced by the NHS, NICE and other professional organisations around the treatment of bowel cancer patients during the pandemic. The NHS are working hard to ensure treatment can be resumed at normal levels as soon as is safe to do so.  We’re monitoring the safety netting that NHS has in place to ensure anyone whose had their treatment delayed, can have this rescheduled without unnecessary delay.   

Question: My hospital test or investigation has been postponed or cancelled

All hospitals, both NHS and private, have had to cancel all non-emergency investigations and procedures. Procedures such as colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy will only be carried out in emergency cases. Patients on surveillance programmes or waiting for diagnostic tests are experiencing some delays. At present endoscopy units are reviewing their services.  Be reassured that you will get your investigation as soon as possible. Hospitals are doing everything possible to re-start routine investigations.

Question: I’m worried about the symptoms of bowel cancer

Without a doubt, any worrying symptoms need to be investigated. You may be putting your health at risk if you don’t get checked out. GPs are still there and want to hear from people with non-coronavirus related concerns. GP practices are working hard to offer phone and video appointments so you can access support from home. You might not be sent for any further investigations straight away, but it’s important that your GP is aware so they arrange for any tests once it’s safe to do so. If your symptoms persist or get worse, we can advise continuing to speak with your GP regularly. Download our symptoms diary to help keep track before you visit your GP. Read more about the symptoms of bowel cancer.

Question: I’ve been told that I’m clinically extremely vulnerable. How long do I need to keep ‘shielding’ and how can I get extra support?

Many people affected by bowel cancer have been sent a letter from the NHS with ‘shielding’ advice, asking them to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact.  The latest update is that shielding guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be in place until at least the end of June. For the latest guidance, including on how to get extra support, please see the shielding page.

We’re here for you

We’ll continue to monitor this fast moving situation, listen to your concerns and raise awareness. As always, our determination to support everyone affected by bowel cancer remains our top priority.

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