Cancer and COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Last updated: 2 September 2020

Diana Sarfati, CE Cancer Control Agency, shares a message for those living with cancer during COVID-19.

Text: A message for those living with cancer during COVID-19 - Cancer Control Agency New Zealand

Diana Sarfati - CE Cancer Control Agency: Kia ora, katou. Being diagnosed with cancer is stressful, and even more so during the COVID pandemic. I wanted to let you know how hard everyone is working to make sure that you and your whānau have the care and support that you need during this difficult time.

Richard Doocey - Haematologist in Auckland: Just wanted to check in and reassure you that all the cancer units and their fabulous staff across New Zealand are working really closely together at this time. We're all trying to make sure you get that excellent cancer treatment that you all deserve.

Shelley Campbell - CE Waikato Bay of Plenty Cancer Society: Waikato Cancer Society Lions Lodge is now operating 24/7. At the moment, our nurses are working hard to support whānau and the community as well.

Claire Hardie- Radiation Oncologist in Palmerston North: Radiation oncology departments around the country are still working so you can receive radiation treatment when you need it. 

Alex - Social Worker / Counsellor Cancer in Whangarei: We're still providing support with social work issues, accommodation, travel, things like that, and we're all in this together.

Chris Hemmings - Pathologist in Christchurch: We've extended our operating hours and divided our labs into two teams, so although it's not quite business as usual, we are still coming to work every day and beavering away in the lab behind the scenes to do our bit to support cancer patients.

Diana Sarfati: There are some really simple things you can do if you or a member of your whānau are being treated for cancer. 

Myra Ruka - Haematologoist in Waikato: Continue to take all of your medications. Your cancer key team will contact you and let you know if there's been any changes to your treatment plan. 

Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone - Director Pacific Health in Wellington: If you are unwell, phone your GP or cancer clinic. They will talk to you about what to do next. If you're sick, the hospital is still the safest place to be.

Myra Ruka: If you're a cancer patient, or if you're vulnerable or at high risk of getting the coronavirus, your whare is your safety bubble, so as much as possible, please stay in the whare.

Chris Jackson - Medical Oncologist in Dunedin: Whatever the alert level, you can travel for your treatment, because cancer treatment is essential. Occasionally, the way we deliver treatment may change to keep you or our staff safe.

Diana Sarfati: Cancer care professionals all around New Zealand have risen to the challenge of COVID-19. To those living with cancer at this time, we are constantly humbled by your strength and your resilience. You're at the front of our minds. He waka eke noa - we're all in this together.

We understand you and your whānau may feel unsettled by the news we have COVID-19 cases, with an unknown source, in New Zealand. It is OK to be worried, but please know that cancer centres around the country are prepared to continue delivering essential cancer services at all alert levels.

Alert Level 2

At Level 2:

  • physical distancing guidelines will be in place
  • outpatient appointments may be in person or virtual (eg, phone conversation or video call), you will be contacted by your cancer centre with the details
  • if you have treatment or a scan scheduled, please attend this as normal (unless you have been contacted by your cancer centre with alternative arrangements)
  • if you have concerns about travelling or coming to hospital because of your health, please contact your cancer centre before your appointment or treatment
  • if you are unwell, please phone your cancer centre to let them know.

It is still safe to come to the hospital. If you are sick the hospital is still the safest place to be.

Alert Level 3

At Level 3, cancer centres must follow the physical distancing guidelines which may impact how treatment is delivered. It is extremely important that we protect people living with cancer from the risk of catching COVID-19. 

At Level 3:

  • hospitals will be looking to run outpatient appointments virtually where possible (eg, phone conversation or video call). You will be contacted by your cancer centre with the details
  • if you have treatment or a scan scheduled, please attend this as normal
  • if you have concerns about travelling or coming to hospital because of your health, please contact your cancer centre before your appointment or treatment
  • if you are unwell, please phone your cancer centre to let them know
  • if you are unwell with COVID-19 symptoms, please contact your doctor to discuss being tested for COVID-19.

It is safe to come to the hospital. If you are sick the hospital is still the safest place to be.

General COVID-19 information

The best source of accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19 is available on the Ministry of Health website.

These uncertain times can affect your mental wellbeing. It’s important to remember that if you aren’t feeling good, there are many different types of help available. Information and tools are available at Mental health and wellbeing resources.

People with reduced immunity, including some people living with cancer and those undergoing chemotherapy, are at a higher risk from COVID-19. Information on who is considered at risk and what can be done to manage that risk can be found at Advice for higher risk people.

There are some simple steps to protect against COVID-19:

  • keep your distance from other people in public
  • wash your hands
  • sneeze and cough into your elbow
  • keep a track of where you have been and who you have seen
  • if you are sick stay at home and call your cancer centre
  • if you are sick with COVID-19 symptoms ring your doctor or Healthline.

We are working with clinicians, cancer centres, DHBs and our advisory groups to address the issues COVID-19 is creating for people living with cancer.

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