Ovarian cancer and COVID-19 (coronavirus): advice for patients in Wales

BRCA gene mutations

Updated  27th August 2021

Information for ovarian cancer patients in Wales who are currently receiving treatment 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, clinically extremely vulnerable people (including many ovarian cancer patients) were advised to follow extra 'shielding' precautions to avoid catching coronavirus. This is because they were identified as being at higher risk of serious illness if they caught the virus. 

Shielding advice was paused in Wales on 1st April 2021. 

Advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people in Wales as restrictions lift

Many Covid-19 restrictions - such as limits on the numbers of people who could meet indoors and social distancing laws - ended on Saturday 7th August when Wales moved to Alert Level Zero. 

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales has sent a letter to all those on the Shielding Patient List (SPL) about the latest changes and with advice on how to stay safe as restrictions ease. If you're on the Shielding Patient List, the latest letter advises you to have both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine (unless your doctor has advised otherwise) and to take extra precautions, if you wish, such as washing your hands regularly and continuing to social distance from people you do not live with.    

You can find the latest guidance for clinically vulnerable people here or scroll down to read more in our FAQs below, where we have answered your commonly asked questions about Covid-19.

The UK has approved four Covid-19 vaccines 

Three safe and effective coronavirus vaccines (developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna) are now available in the UK, and a fourth (developed by Janssen) will be available later this year. The vaccine is free and will be available to everyone who will benefit, starting with those most at risk. 

Click here to read our Covid-19 vaccine FAQs. 

FAQs for patients in Wales

Am I 'clinically extremely vulnerable'?

Medical experts have identified the people who need to follow shielding guidance to stay safe if their medical condition or their treatment gives them a high risk of serious illness from coronavirus.  

You will be on the Shielding Patient List and asked to follow the latest shielding guidance if you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and you are currently having: 

  • chemotherapy, or have had chemotherapy in the last 3 months
  • treatment where they are taking a PARP inhibitor (olaparib, niraparib, and rucaparib)
  • immunotherapy or any treatment that affects their immune system
If you have had ovarian cancer in the past and made a full recovery, you will not be part of the shielding group. You should still follow the Government guidance on social distancing to stay safe, but you are not at any more risk than the general public.
You will receive a letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales if you are on the Shielding Patient List.

What does the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people say?

Many Covid-19 restrictions - such as limits on the number of people who can meet indoors - were relaxed on Saturday 7th August, when Wales moved to Alert Level 0. The Chief Medical Officer for Wales has sent out a new letter to everyone on the Shielding Patient List (SPL) confirming the latest changes and guidance for you at this time. 

Shielding was paused in Wales on 1st April and is not being reintroduced. People on the shielding list are must follow the same alert level rules as the rest of the population. However, the Chief Medical Officer has acknowledged that the lifting of national Covid-19 restrictions may cause clinically vulnerable people to feel anxious, and has set out a number of extra precautions you can take to lower your risk of the virus. 

Choices you can make to help reduce your risk cover:

  • Keep contacts to a minimum
  • Meet others outside where possible
  • Ensure any enclosed areas are well ventilated
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitiser if hand washing facilities are not available
  • Stay two metres or three steps away from people you do not live with
  • Avoid touching your face and wear a face covering where required
  • Clean surfaces regularly and avoid touching surfaces others have touched

There is more advice on how to protect yourself when meeting others inside and outside your home here.

You are also strongly encouraged to take up the vaccination offer, if you have not already done so - unless you have been advised against having the vaccine by your doctor. It is still important to have the vaccine, even if you have a condition or take medication that affects your immune system, as some protection is better than none at all. The vaccine programme is still open to all eligible adults in Wales and it is never too late to arrange an appointment. You can find out who to contact here.

You can read a copy of the letter to everyone on the Shielding Patient List here.

Why has shielding been paused?

The advice to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, previously ‘shielding’, has been kept under constant review. In all of the advice to you, the government have tried to find the right balance between the risks of coronavirus and the harm that asking you to continue to follow shielding measures can cause. Staying at home for long periods of time can harm your mental and physical health. 

Whilst there has been an increase in the numbers of cases in Wales, this has not resulted in the same rise in people becoming very sick and needing to go to hospital or dying as was seen in the first and second wave. This is largely due to the vaccination programme. As the risk of becoming very ill is lower, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales is continuing to advise everyone on the Shielding Patient List that is it not necessary to follow shielding measures right now. 

Is there still a Shielding Patient List?

The Shielding Patient List is being maintained so that the Chief Medical Officer for Wales can write again to people in this group with any updates or if the advice on shielding changes.

I've been diagnosed with ovarian cancer since March 2020 - will I still be on the Shielding Patient List?

Yes. The Shielding Patients List is updated regularly so you will have been added if there are medical reasons which mean you are now considered clinically extremely vulnerable from Covid-19.

Where can I get a copy of the latest letter for clinically vulnerable people?

If you are on the Shielding Patient List you should have received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales with the latest guidance. You can view and download this shielding letter here. The letter contains advice on how to best protect yourself from coronavirus.

If you have a learning disability and need some support understanding the letter, you can contact the Wales Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 8000 300 – it is free and is open from 9am to 5pm Monday – Friday, including bank holidays (closed on weekends). You can also email helpline.wales@mencap.org.uk.

Where can I find support?

Support with daily living

You will still be able to access priority slots for supermarket deliveries if you're on the Shielding Patient List.  

If you need support and you do not have anyone to help you, you can speak with your local council.

If you need help with collecting medicines and have no one to help you, please contact your pharmacy directly.

If you still need support from 1st April and you do not have anyone to help you, you can speak with your local council. The contact details for each local council are at the end of the latest letter to those on the Shielding Patient List.

If you need support from a volunteer or voluntary organisations your local County Voluntary Council will be able to put you in touch with organisations that might be able to help.

If advice changes for your area, the Wales Government we will communicate with the public via local radio and television, and you will also receive a letter if you are advised to follow shielding measures again. 

Support with your bills

If you do not have enough money to pay your bills, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. For help and advice, call Citizen’s Advice free on 03444 77 20 20 or visit the Citizens Advice website

If you need help from the welfare system, you can also visit the Government website or call the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 328 5644 (0800 328 1744 for Welsh language). 

You can also apply online for the Welsh Government’s Discretionary Assistance Fund payment here or by calling free on 0800 859 5924. 

Work 

If you have concerns about your health and safety at work the first conversation you have should be with your employer. You can raise any ongoing issues with any union safety representatives, or ultimately with the organisation responsible for enforcement in your workplace, either the Health and Safety Executive, here, or your local authority. 

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly by your employer, or somebody who gives you a service, then the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) offers a free advice service which you can access by calling 0808 800 0082, by text phone on 0808 800 0084 or by visiting their website.

Your wellbeing 

Information about staying well is available at the Public Health Wales website.

Education Programmes for Patients (EEP) Cymru provides a fantastic range virtual health and well-being courses for people living with a health conditions for free across Wales. EEP Cymru offer a six-week course 'Thriving & Surviving: Dealing with life after cancer'Click here for a full list of courses and to sign up for a virtual wellbeing course. 

SilverCloud is an online course which offers support for anxiety, depression and much more, all based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). You can sign up here

CALL Mental Health Listening Line provides a confidential mental health listening and emotional support line which is open 24/7. CALL can also signpost to support in local communities and a range of online information. Call 0800132737, text “help” to 81066 or visit their website

Mind Active Monitoring provides six weeks guided self-help for, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and more. To get started, talk to your GP, any other health professional, or sign up directly here

ACTivate Your Life is a four session taught course that aims to teach people about stress and suffering caused by emotional issues, like worry, or chronic pain. To start go to the Public Health Wales website

The Young Person’s Mental Health Toolkit links young people, aged 11 to 25, to websites, apps, helplines, and more to build resilience. You can access the toolkit here.

Support for ovarian cancer patients 

We are continuing to inform and update anyone with an ovarian cancer diagnosis in this time. You can sign up to receive our monthly patient newsletter for tips on navigating the lockdown, as well as updates on the Government guidance at the bottom of the page. If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see from us, tell us on info@ovarian.org.uk. 

Ovacome's support line is now open extended hours, and you can call them for free on 0800 008 7054.

What do I do if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

If, at any point, you think you have developed symptoms of coronavirus, such as a new, continuous cough and/or high temperature (above 37.8 °C), you should :

  • Seek clinical advice using the using the NHS 111 Wales COVID online service. If you do not have access to the internet, call NHS 111. Make sure you mention that you are an ovarian cancer patient who has been considered to be at risk. Do this as soon as you get symptoms
  • In an emergency, call 999 if you are seriously ill. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre, or a hospital.

To help the NHS provide you with the best care if you need to go to hospital as a result of catching coronavirus, please prepare a single hospital bag. This should include your emergency contact, a list of the medications you take (including dose and frequency), any information on your planned care appointments and things you would need for an overnight stay (snacks, pyjamas, toothbrush, your medication etc). If you have an advanced care plan, please include that.

What should I do if I'm experiencing ovarian cancer symptoms?

The following advice is from the British Gynaecological Cancer Society.

Some existing cancer patients have open access to their gynae-oncology service, normally via the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). If you have already had a gynaecological cancer diagnosis and have symptoms concerning for recurrence (such as persistent bloating and stomach pain), please get in touch with your CNS via their usual contact details. Please be aware that many staff have been re-deployed to look after acutely unwell patients, so there may be a delay, or a CNS from another cancer team may be covering the gynaecological cancer team.  Please be understanding with us if this is the case. We will try our very hardest to look after you and get back to you as quickly as we can.

Sometimes you may be referred to another hospital in your area, if your normal hospital is very busy. We have been working together to help get you seen and treated as soon as we can. We are all one big NHS team, now more so than ever. Please bear with us and be understanding, if this is the case.

Can carers and support workers come to my home?

Carers or support workers who support you with your everyday needs can continue to visit you, unless they have signs of coronavirus.

All carers or support workers must wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds when they enter your home and often while they are in your home. 

What about my treatment?

Your hospital or clinic will contact you if any changes need to be made to your care or treatment. Please phone your hospital or clinic if you have any questions about your appointment. 

Some hospital appointments may need to be cancelled, postponed or changed to be over the phone or the internet. You can read a helpful guide put together by Ovacome about how to prepare for these appointments here. This is part of the plans to help the NHS to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. You will still be able to contact your hospital care team if you have an urgent issue.

If you do not feel ready or able to collect your own prescriptions you can:

  1. Ask someone to pick up your prescription from your local pharmacy to help (this is the best option).
  2. If you do not have anyone who can help, telephone your pharmacy and ask them to deliver your prescription. Let them know you are in a high-risk group.

You may also need to arrange any special medication prescribed to you by your hospital care team to be collected or delivered to you.

Where can I read the latest guidance?

You can find the latest guidance for patients living in Wales here.

What is the government doing to tackle the variant first seen in India?
The Welsh Government is carefully monitoring the variant most likely first seen in India (VOC-21APR-02) in Wales. The Test Trace Protect teams are working to trace and monitor contacts of variant cases and are also developing local plans to use targeted or surge testing if needed. The numbers of this variant are low and a high number of people have already been vaccinated, including many vulnerable people who have received their second dose. The government will closely monitor the situation and work with health boards to bring forward second vaccine doses in key areas to help reduce infections and serious illness if required. 

Where can I find out more about the Covid-19 vaccine?

Do you have another question?

If you have a question that hasn’t been answered, please email us at info@ovarian.org.uk - we may not know the answer straight away, but we will do our best to find out.

Government guidance for patients and information on the coronavirus is updated regularly. Sign up here to be kept up to date with the latest government advice, information and advice from experts, and tips on your wellbeing during this uncertain time.