9th March 2020

Coronavirus: Advice for people with lung cancer

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With UK Chief Medical Officers raising the coronavirus – or COVID-19 – risk from low to moderate, many people, including those living with lung cancer, are understandably concerned.

We have therefore compiled a number of resources about the coronavirus, how to reduce your risk and what to do if you think you have contracted the virus.

For the most up-to-date information, visit Public Health England. There is also a reading guide about coronavirus on the NHS website, including answers to the most common questions. You can also read the Government’s response to the virus, its public information campaign and action plan.

The symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • – a cough
  • – a high temperature
  • – shortness of breath.

These symptoms are very similar to other far more common illnesses such as cold or flu, as well as symptoms and side effects of lung cancer and lung cancer treatments, and do not mean you have the illnesses.

Reducing your risk

If you have lung cancer, it is important to avoid getting any sort of virus. Coronavirus is a new illness, so we do not know yet how it is spread. The best way to stop viruses spreading, in general, is to:

  • – Wash your hands regularly.
  • – You should wash your hands, including the backs, between your fingers and under your nails for at least 20 seconds.
  • – If you have been out, wash your hands when you get home or into work.
  • – If soap and water is not available, use hand sanitiser.
  • – Cough into your elbow or the crook of your arm, or
  • – Use a tissue is cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • – Throw tissues away as soon as you can and wash your hands again.
  • – Avoid close contact with people who are unwell in general.
  • – Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.

Some people are asking whether wearing a facemask can help reduce your risk of contracting viruses. There is not enough evidence to show how effective facemask are. People living with lung cancer also often struggle with breathlessness and wearing a facemask can make breathing more difficult, so we do not recommend wearing a facemask.

It is important to remember catching it is not that easy – as long as we are careful. Current understanding indicates you need to live with, or have direct physical contact with, someone infected, be coughed or sneezed on by them, or pick up a used tissue, or be in face-to-face contact (within two metres) for more than 15 minutes.

We are also seeing evidence that the virus can be contained. On Thursday [5th March], 120 new cases of coronavirus were reported. This is the lowest figure in six weeks. Several Chinese provinces have had no new cases in two weeks, and schools are beginning to reopen.

Worried you have contracted coronavirus

NHS 111 has set up an online coronavirus service. This can tell you if you need medical help and will advise you what you need to do.

People are advised to use this service if they:

  • – Think they might have coronavirus
  • – Have been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus. Click here to see the latest high-risk countries
  • – Have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus.

If you do think you may have contracted the virus, self-isolate yourself. This means you should stay at home and not go to work, school or any public places. Do not use public transport or taxis. Avoid any visitors. Friends, family or delivery drivers can drop off food.

Do not go to your GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Instead, call the 111 service, share your concerns and that you have lung cancer and they will advise you.

Within days of the gene sequence being published, a reliable test was available. Hundreds of scientific articles have already been written and dozens of treatments are already being tested. According to Nature magazine in mid-February, more than 80 clinical trials are already underway for antiviral treatments.

We appreciate this is a worrying time. The most important thing is to do everything you can to minimise your risk. Wash your hands regularly and avoid contact with people who are unwell.

For all the latest information, visit Public Health England and the NHS websites.