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

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Updated  5th January 2020

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

To help everybody stay safe and stop the rise in cases, the government has now introduced a Wales-wide lockdown, with additional restrictions in place for everyone living in Wales to follow. Click here to read about the measures in full.

Earlier in the year, many ovarian cancer patients were advised to stay at home and ‘shield’ to avoid catching Covid-19. The government introduced shielding as an extra way to protect cancer patients and other 'clinically extremely vulnerable people' whose medical condition or treatment meant they had a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they caught coronavirus. 

The advice to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable changed on 22nd December and states that you should no longer attend work or school outside the home. You should receive a letter shortly to confirm this advice to you.

Click to read the latest advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people:

We have answered your commonly asked questions about Covid-19 and what it means for you below.

The UK has approved two Covid-19 vaccines 

The government has now approved two coronavirus vaccines, Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca, for mass use across the UK. The NHS has now started the phased roll out of the coronavirus vaccine, and over 1 million people have already been vaccinated. The vaccine is free and will be available to everyone who will benefit, starting with those most at risk. Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people - including ovarian cancer patients - are in the fourth priority group to get the vaccine. The Government has said that it aims for everyone who is Clinically extremely vulnerable to have been vaccinated by mid February 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: 
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.
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?

The advice to those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable has changed:

-You must stay at home as much as possible

-You should no longer attend work or school outside the home. If you cannot work from home, then you should not attend work. 

You can read the full guidance here

Socialising

Take care to keep contact with others to a minimum. At present most cases are being passed within families and close friends, so you should reduce contact with others where possible. 

Stay two metres or three steps steps away from people you do not live with inside or outside where permitted. 

Hygiene practices

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds each time, or use hand sanitiser if hand washing facilities are not available. 

Clean surfaces regularly and avoid touching surfaces other have touched. 

Going out

It's a good idea to plan ahead where possible before going out. Consider what time of day you go out and where you're visiting to avoid busier places (e.g. supermarkets) during peak times. 

Shopping

Shop online - as a clinically extremely vulnerable person you can access priority supermarket delivery slots. If you cannot shop online plan ahead to avoid busy times.

Work

You are strongly advised to work from home. If you cannot work from home, then you should not attend work.

If you were on payroll before 30 October 2020, you may also be eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ( furlough), which is being extended until the end of April 2021. Speak to your employer if you think you are eligible.

Travel

If you do need to travel, walk or cycle if you can, as this is not only good exercise but it also means you are outside, which is generally lower risk. For longer journeys, or if you cannot walk or cycle, consider what you can do to minimise the number of people you come into close contact with e.g. avoid sharing a car with another person outside your household.

Is there still a Shielding Patients List?

The Shielding Patients 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 - will I still be on the Shielding Patients 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 Patients List you should have received a copy of the letter in the post. You can also view and download this shielding letter here. The letter contains advice on how to best protect yourself from coronavirus.

You can find an easy read version of the letter here

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?

There is lots of support available to help you through the pandemic and different restrictions placed on everyday life. Extra help for your mental wellbeing is available across Wales, online and over the phone. These resources are safe, free, and you don’t need a referral:

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 callhelpline.org.uk/.

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 at: Mind.org.uk.

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 phw.nhs.wales/activateyourlife.

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 you do not have enough money to pay your bills, it is important to seek help and to do this as early as possible. 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. 

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.

We are continuing to run the Staying Connected programme in partnership with Ovacome to support ovarian cancer patients during this time. This includes support, patient information, updates to government guidance and fun things to keep you entertained during this time.

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

You can sign up to receive our weekly Staying Connected emails 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. 

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.

Is there anything else I can do to keep myself safe and healthy?

On top of following the guidance, here are some other things you can do to stay healthy over lockdown:

  • Get a flu vaccine this autumn. Your household contacts should also have a flu vaccine as that will help give you extra protection. GP surgeries and community pharmacies have made sure it is safe for you and your household contacts to be vaccinated.
  • Take vitamin D supplements every day to keep your bones and muscles healthy
  • Eat healthily and take regular exercise

Where can I read the latest guidance?

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

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.