Coronavirus advice for former cancer patients

Last Reviewed: 4 August

Older woman talking to her doctor

Those who are going through active cancer treatment or who have very recently completed their treatment for cancer are among the high risk groups who may be at a greater risk of developing severe symptoms from infections such as flus, colds and coronavirus (Covid-19).

Also considered to be at higher risk are those aged over 60, those who have other long-term illnesses or medical conditions for example, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, renal disease, liver disease or high blood pressure, those who are immune suppressed, those who have a medical condition that can affect your breathing and those who are in specialist disability care and are over 50 years of age or have an underlying health problem.

Those who are no longer being actively treated for cancer may be at a small increased risk of developing more severe symptoms of infections such as coronavirus compared to the general population.

There are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of getting an infection, both from coronavirus and from other infections such as colds and flu.

These steps include: 

  • Keep a distance of at least two metres from people who are not from the same household as you.
  • Face coverings should be worn when in busy enclosed public spaces such as shops and public transport, and people should continue to work from home where possible.
  • Regular and thorough hand washing with common soap and warm water and use of alcohol-based hand washes, especially:
    • when in contact with other people
    • before eating or touching your face
    • after using the bathroom
    • upon entering the home 
  • Those around a cancer patient should practice good respiratory hygiene by:
    • covering your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing
    • discarding used tissues immediately into a closed bin, and cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water 
  • If anyone in your household is showing symptoms of coronavirus (cough, fever, difficulty breathing) they should self- isolate and seek advice from their GP.
  • 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. 
  • Exercise caution for any activities outside the home which might bring you into contact with people who may be at higher risk of carrying infection, particularly in smaller crowded spaces with poor ventilation.

Infections of all kinds are easier to transmit from person to person in the home, so practicing these steps in the home can help to protect from many different diseases.

What to do if you develop signs of an infection

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the common cold or flu. Those who have not recently received treatment for cancer and show signs of possible coronavirus infection or who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus in the last 14 days, or anyone who has travelled internationally and/or is showing symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, sudden fever causing you to feel very hot or cold) should:

  • isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room, with a phone. Anyone else in the same household should restrict their outside movements.
  • phone their GP who can organise for a coronavirus test if needed
  • In a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999

If you are actively receiving treatment for cancer or have very recently completed your active treatment, please click here to see our specific webpage for information.

Close contact means either:

  • Face-to-face contact
  • Spending more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person
  • Living in the same house as an infected person

If you have recently been treated for cancer you should call ahead to let the Emergency Department know that you will be attending, and follow their advice appropriately.

This is to protect yourself from coming into contact with other infections in such areas, as well as the possibility of an infection you might have being transmitted to other people who are unwell or medical staff. 

If your health deteriorates for any reason, contact your GP or cancer treatment team or an Emergency Department and they will be able to make arrangements for your hospital care to minimise your chances of coming into contact with coronavirus infection.

Hospitals continue to function and deliver quality cancer treatment, and all hospital departments have advanced plans in place to manage treatment as the situation develops. 

Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line

The Irish Cancer Society continues to be available to provide support and information on this matter or any other queries related to cancer through its Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.

For more information

Icon: Phone


1800 200 700

Icon: Email