Information and support regarding cancer and COVID-19

To view information about cancer and COVID-19 in your language, see Cancer Council Australia’s downloadable PDFs.

Cancer Council Queensland understands that Australians undergoing cancer treatment, cancer survivors and their families and friends may have questions about the recent outbreak of COVID-19.

On this page, you will find important information about COVID-19 and cancer, as well as helpful resources to guide you during this time.

What is COVID-19 & how does it spread?

COVID-19 is a is a flu-like virus which affects your lungs and airways. It can be spread from person to person through respiratory secretions (coughing and sneezing). If you come in close contact with a person with COVID-19, you are at risk of contracting the virus from them. Close contact means face-to-face for at least 15 minutes or within the same enclosed space for at least two hours. This is why it’s very important to cover your coughs and sneezes, and distance yourself from others.

Why are people with cancer more vulnerable to COVID-19?

Our immune systems defend our bodies against illnesses and infections such as those caused by COVID-19. If you have cancer, your immune system may not be as strong as it is normally, which means you are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and its associated respiratory problems. You may experience more severe symptoms, so it’s important to do all you can to avoid contact with infected persons and prevent the virus from spreading to you.

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

If you are currently experiencing symptoms of infection (e.g. fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath) or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, please contact your treatment team. Obtain advice over the phone rather than in person, where possible, to lower your risk of exposure and to reduce the risk of exposing others.

How can I minimise my risk of exposure to COVID-19?

People with cancer should continue to follow any specific advice or standard precautions recommended by their health care practitioners and treatment team. This will minimise the risk of infection during and after treatment. You can also action the following advice.

Practice good hygiene

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice in your head). For a guide to thorough hand washing techniques see here. If hand washing facilities are not immediately available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. It’s a good idea to carry this with you and use it after touching communal surfaces such as door handles and handrails.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands as this can transfer the virus from surfaces.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as your mobile phone or food preparation areas. For tips on cleaning processes visit this page.

Stay at home

  • Stay at home unless you must go out to access essential services.
  • Avoid contact with those who are sick or have been exposed to the virus.
  • Call your treatment team to see if you can conduct some of your consultations remotely via phone, Skype or Facetime.
  • Catch up with friends and family via phone or video chat rather than inviting visitors into your home.

Implement social distancing tactics

You can practice social distancing tactics in public and in your own home. This is particularly important for people having chemotherapy or those who are post treatments such as bone marrow transplantation.

  • Refrain from unnecessary physical contact such as shaking hands, hugging or kissing.
  • Leave at least 1.5-metres clear between yourself and other people.
  • Avoid crowds and crowded areas. If you know you need to go out for an appointment or to get groceries, try and do this at a time when not as many people will be around or shop at a quieter supermarket.
  • Talk to your doctor or a member of your treatment team about the times in your treatment when you may be at the highest risk of infection and plan your activities accordingly.

I am a friend, family member or carer of a person with cancer. What should I do?

If you have been in contact with a person who has COVID-19, avoid any contact with the person who is receiving cancer treatment.

Talk to your health care provider about receiving the influenza vaccination as early in the flu season as possible. By doing this you will avoid passing on other infections and increasing the risk of you, your family member or friend needing healthcare.

How can I take care of my mental wellbeing during self-isolation?

Maintaining relationships and staying active can be especially difficult if you need to distance yourself from others to reduce your risk of infection. Friends and family play an important role in managing your wellbeing during this period when you may be feeling anxious and uncertain. Stay in contact with them via phone, video chat and social media. Make sure you exercise and stay busy with hobbies and activities, too. This will also boost morale while you are confined to your home.

We’ve put together a list of coping strategies and ideas to keep you busy and connected with your friends and family during this time.

Cancer Council’s online community is also a place where you can talk to other people who might be in a similar situation to you. Find the online community here.

Are there any changes to Cancer Council Queensland’s services?

Cancer Council Queensland is focused on doing what we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Queensland. We are committed to the continuation of services during this period but understand that our volunteers must also consider their own health. As a result, we may experience a decrease in volunteers which could affect our regular services. For questions or enquiries please call 13 11 20.

Our accommodation lodges and transport to treatment services are critical for many Queenslanders undergoing treatment, and so continue to operate with minor changes.

We will now be asking all visitors to our offices and accommodation lodges, and anyone using our services, to fill out a Visitor Declaration Form. This is for the safety of our staff and volunteers, and especially those living with cancer who enter our premises or use our services. We trust you will cooperate with us in implementing these new measures and appreciate your understanding.

What is the Queensland Government doing to stop the spread of COVID-19?

All states and territories within Australia have their own rules and regulations concerning public gatherings and social distancing. For the most up to date information on the regulations Queensland has put in place to minimise the spread of COVID-19, please refer to the Queensland Government website.

The Queensland Government has also introduced stricter border security measures for anyone entering the state, which you can find more information on here.

I have more questions and concerns about cancer and COVID-19, who can I talk to?

On the phone

Cancer Council 13 11 20

If you are feeling anxious, have questions or need support, please remember that Cancer Council’s Support and Information line is available during business hours. Our specially trained team can provide emotional support as well as practical tips for minimising the risk of infection during this time.

Over the internet

Cancer Council Australia’s FAQs

Cancer Council Australia has put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions about cancer and COVID-19 which you may find helpful.

If you are living with cancer, please also take a moment to watch this message from Cancer Council Australia. It may help to alleviate some of your worry and assure you we are still doing all we can to support you.

Where can I get more information about COVID-19?

On the phone

Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080

Call this number for additional support and information on COVID-19 in Australia.

Over the internet

Queensland Government

For the latest information and laws concerning COVID-19 in Queensland, visit the Queensland Government website.

Australian Government Department of Health

Visit this website for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Australia. This includes national laws and advice regarding social distancing, public gatherings and self-isolation.

World Health Organisation

For a broader understanding of how COVID-19 is affecting other nations, and the latest international news, visit this website.

Via a mobile app

Australian Government Coronavirus app

This app is available for both Apple and android mobile phones. You can configure your settings to allow push notifications so you will be immediately notified of any new legislation or important information regarding COVID-19.