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

BRCA gene mutations

Updated 7th May 2020

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

Due to the current outbreak of COVID-19, ovarian cancer patients need to follow special advice to stay healthy. The Chief Medical Officer for Wales has now contacted patients that are considered to be most at risk of severe illness if they catch Coronavirus (COVID-19). Many ovarian cancer patients will be considered to be most at risk.

We'll be regularly updating this page as the information changes. 

Who is most at risk?

  • Ovarian cancer patients who are currently having chemotherapy, or have had chemotherapy in the last 3 months.
  • Ovarian cancer patients who are currently having treatment where they are taking a PARP inhibitor (Olaparib, Niraparib, and Rucaparib).
  • Ovarian cancer patients who are having immunotherapy or any treatment that affects their immune system.

What do I need to do?

You should stay at home at all times and avoid all face-to-face contact for at least twelve weeks from today (21st March -13th June 2020), except carers and healthcare workers who you must see as part of your medical care. This will protect you by stopping you from coming into contact with the virus. 

This means you should:

  • Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Not leave your home except for treatment
  • Not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces e.g. family homes, weddings and religious services
  • Not go out for shopping, leisure or travel. When arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact 
  • Keep in touch with family and friends using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services 
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Ask carers or support workers who visit your home to do the same.

You should first try to get help from:

  • Family members 
  • Friends or other people in your community
  • Carers or community organisations
  • Voluntary organisations (a list of local voluntary groups can be found here)

If you are unable to request online shopping and have no support from family, friends or community organisations, you will be able to request a weekly food box. Each free box will provide essential food for one person for a week, and will be delivered weekly. If more than one person in your household is shielding and has no support they will also receive food. You can contact your local authority to request a food box – the contact number for your Local Authority is on the letter you received from the Chief Medical Officer (or your GP or hospital doctor).

If you have no support from family, friends or community organisations to collect your medicine please speak to your regular community pharmacy to discuss how you can get your medicine. Pharmacies should have extra capacity to make more deliveries and a record of who has been identified as extremely vulnerable in your area.

We understand this will be an incredibly frustrating and difficult time for many of you, especially those who feel well. Your emotions will probably range from anxious to downright bored. Your mental health will be just as important as your physical health in these next few weeks. For those of you on our mailing list, we will be sharing content to keep you informed, entertained and engaged over these coming weeks, but if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see from us, tell us on info@ovarian.org.uk. If you aren’t on our mailing list but would like to be added, sign up at the bottom of the page.

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), 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 about work?

If you are employed, please show the shielding letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales (or your GP or hospital doctor) to your employer. You should not go to your normal place of work – you will need to work at home until at least 15 June 2020, if you can do so. You do not need to get a fit note from your GP.

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 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’ve received a shielding letter then you’ll firstly need to see if family, friends or neighbours can collect your medicine from the pharmacy for you. If this isn’t possible, please speak to your regular community pharmacy to discuss how you can get your medicine.

I haven't received a letter but think I should have

To ensure all high risk patients are contacted, GPs and now hospital doctors have been provided with a list of those who’ve been sent letters to check against their known patients. They will send any additional high risk patients not identified a letter outlining the advice from the Chief Medical Office.

If you haven’t received a letter but believe you should have please contact your GP or hospital doctor. If they do not think you need to stay at home then you do not need to shield, and should follow the guidance on social distancing for people with other conditions.

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.

Do others in my household have to stay at home?

No, they do not have to stay at home as well.  However, if they are going out they must follow social distancing rules, otherwise they will be at risk of catching the virus and therefore passing it to you. In this case we would advise that you try to separate yourselves in the home environment as much as possible, for example by having separate rooms, and that family members who have to go out take extra precautions when they come home.

If you have members of your household who are not shielding:

  • Minimise the time you spend with others in shared spaces such as the kitchen, bathroom and sitting area, and keep the rooms you share well ventilated.
  • Aim to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from others, and sleep in a separate bed where possible.
  • Use separate towels and bathrooms. If you share a bathroom, clean it after every use. Consider creating a rota for bathing, with you using the facilities first.
  • Avoid using the kitchen at the same time as others, and eat your meals in separate rooms. Ensure all kitchenware is cleaned thoroughly. 
If all the other members of your household are following shielding measures, then you do not need to socially distance from them in your own home. 

What will happen to shielding patients once lockdown lifts?

Wales and England lockdown measures are no longer the same. Wales continues to be in lockdown with small changes for the general public who are social distancing. The advice has not changed for those who are shielding. 

Regardless of when you received your letter, the current end date for shielding is still the 15th June. There are still a number of unanswered questions about how schools re-opening and family members going back to work will be managed in shielding households, but as always, as soon as any guidance or advice changes we’ll let you know.

If you have a question that hasn’t been answered, have a look at our wider Coronavirus FAQs and if we still haven’t covered it 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.

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