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Coronavirus (COVID-19) and cervical cancer

Updated 1st April 2021

This page has information about coronavirus (COVID-19) for people who have or have had cervical cancer. We know that this may be an especially anxious time if you have cervical cancer or are supporting a loved one with cervical cancer. If you would prefer to speak with someone, call our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000.

Please remember this information does not replace advice from your healthcare team. 

Use the links below to jump to the section you need:

About coronavirus

Coronavirus is a virus that causes an illness called COVID-19. It can affect your lungs and airways (respiratory system). Most people won’t become seriously ill with the virus, but it can cause serious complications for some people.

The symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a new, persistent cough
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

Read more about symptoms on the NHS website >

If you have been in contact with someone with coronavirus, or if you have the symptoms listed above, you should begin self-isolating:

  • If you have symptoms, book a coronavirus test >
  • If you live alone, you should self-isolate for 10 days. 
  • If you live with other people, everyone in the household should self-isolate for 10 days. 

If you have cervical cancer and think you have coronavirus, contact your healthcare team at the hospital straight away. They will be able to give you advice specific to your situation.

If you can't reach your healthcare team, use the following online services:

Call 111 if you cannot find answers or get help online. If you do call, make sure you tell them about your cervical cancer diagnosis and any treatment you are having.

Shielding, self-isolating and following the guidance

On this page, we use terms introduced by the UK government to describe the measures that everyone needs to follow:

  • Shielding. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, you should practice shielding if you are ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ – at higher risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. England and Wales stopped their shielding guidance on 1st April 2021. If you were previously shielding in England and Wales, you should now follow the national guidance in those countries.
  • Self-isolating. If you have coronavirus symptoms or live with someone who does, you should self-isolate. Self-isolating means staying at home and avoiding face-to-face contact for 10 days. Check the guidance in EnglandScotlandWales or Northern Ireland
  • Following the guidance. If you are not shielding or self-isolating, you should follow the national guidance in EnglandScotlandWales or Northern Ireland

Coronavirus and cancer treatment

We understand you may feel especially worried if you or a loved one has cervical cancer and is having treatment. Your healthcare team will be able to give you specific advice about what to do, including whether they would recommend you practice shielding. Sometimes your healthcare team may advise you to practice shielding even if it has officially stopped where you live.

Most treatments for cervical cancer do not put you at very high risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. However, if you are currently having chemotherapy for cervical cancer, you are considered at a higher risk – you may hear this called being ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’:

  • In England and Wales, extremely clinically vulnerable people should follow the national guidance.
  • In Scotland and Northern Ireland, extremely clinically vulnerable people should practice shielding.

Questions to ask your healthcare team:

  • Which coronavirus guidance should I follow before and after treatment appointments?
  • Can I bring someone with me to appointments?
  • Are follow up appointments available over the phone or by video call?
  • [If yes to the above] Can I pick which I would prefer?
  • [If yes to the above] Will I be able to come into the hospital for a follow up appointment if I am worried about something?

We have more detailed information about specific cancer treatments and coronavirus below.

If you are currently having chemotherapy, you are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. You should follow the advice from your healthcare team and the national guidance where you live:

How does chemotherapy affect my risk of coronavirus?

Chemotherapy can stop the bone marrow from making enough white blood cells. White blood cells are part of your immune system. This is the system that gets rid of illness and infection caused by viruses like coronavirus. A weaker immune system means it may be less able to get rid of coronavirus.

What should I do to reduce my risk?

You should follow the guidance where you live if you are currently having chemotherapy. 

You may prefer to limit your contact with other people, for example by asking family or friends to get food and other essentials, like medicines, for you. You may also choose to use online delivery services. 

If you live with other people  

If you live with other people, it may be more difficult to limit contact with them. You may consider keeping at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away from other people and making sure all shared spaces are thoroughly cleaned. 

 

 

Should I still go to chemotherapy appointments?

You should continue to attend chemotherapy appointments at the hospital. It is important to follow the advice of your healthcare team and keep going to these appointments unless they have told you not to go. 

Your healthcare team would not ask you to continue coming to the hospital unless it was the best thing for your health. If you are worried about attending your appointments, speak with your healthcare team. They will be able to talk you through what is happening with your treatment and why. You can also ask them about any extra steps you or the hospital can take to reduce your risk.

Will my chemotherapy treatment be changed or delayed?

Your healthcare team may want to limit the amount of time you spend at the hospital. They may suggest:

  • delaying your treatment
  • changing how often you have treatment – so you visit the hospital less 
  • changing to oral chemotherapy – tablets that can be taken at home
  • changing to a different treatment.

These decisions are being made to keep you as well as possible, while also protecting you against coronavirus.

You should be kept informed about any options that are being considered, so you have a full understanding of the situation and can give consent. If you are worried, speak to your healthcare team. It may help to prepare some questions before the call. We have a list of suggested questions in our blog about the impact of coronavirus on people having treatment.

Read our blog >

If possible, it may be useful to have someone else on the call with you, so they can listen, take notes or help with any questions.

We know that having treatment delayed or changed, or the possibility of that happening, is distressing and we want you to know that we are here for you during this difficult time. Our services, including our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000, are open and ready to support you.

What is my risk if I have previously had chemotherapy?

If you previously had chemotherapy, your immune system should have built back up and be more able to get rid of the virus. This means you are considered less at risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. Instead, you should follow the national guidance where you live or self-isolate if you or someone in the household has coronavirus symptoms. 

In previous government guidance, people who had chemotherapy in the last 3 months were included as higher risk. However, as the guidance has been redefined and different measures have been put into place, those people are no longer considered to have the greatest clinical risk. 

If you are worried, it is best to speak with your healthcare team to get advice specific to your situation. If you cannot contact your healthcare team, try to get in touch with your GP by phone. 

If you are currently having radiotherapy or brachytherapy, the treatment alone does not put you at high risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. But it is important to follow the national guidance where you live and get specific advice from your healthcare team.

How does radiotherapy or brachytherapy affect my risk of coronavirus?

Radiotherapy and brachytherapy usually don’t have a big impact on the immune system. If you have recently had radiotherapy or brachytherapy and aren’t feeling completely back to normal, remember that everyone needs time to recover and heals at a different pace. If you are worried, speak with your healthcare team.

What should I do to reduce my risk?

You should follow the national guidance where you live, unless your healthcare team have advised you differently. 

If you have symptoms of coronavirus or you have been in contact with someone who does, you should follow the national guidance to self-isolate.

Should I still go to radiotherapy or brachytherapy appointments?

You should continue to attend radiotherapy or brachytherapy appointments at the hospital. It is important to follow the advice of your healthcare team and keep going to these appointments unless they have told you not to go. 

Your healthcare team would not ask you to continue coming to the hospital unless it was the best thing for your health. If you are worried about attending your appointments, speak with your healthcare team. They will be able to talk you through what is happening with your treatment and why. You can also ask them about any extra steps you or the hospital can take to reduce your risk.

Will my radiotherapy or brachytherapy treatment be changed or delayed?

Your healthcare team will talk to you about any changes or delays to your treatment. Before making any decisions, they will look at your risk if treatment is delayed and your risk of being exposed to coronavirus in the hospital. Some treatments may also be delayed because of pressure on the NHS. 

If your treatment continues as planned, your healthcare team may want to limit the amount of time you spend at the hospital. They may ask you to wait elsewhere and text you when it is time for your treatment to start. They will also ask you to come to appointments on your own, to lower the risk of spreading coronavirus. 

If you are worried, speak to your healthcare team. It may help to prepare some questions before the call. We have a list of suggested questions in our blog about the impact of coronavirus on people having treatment.

Read our blog >

If possible, it may be useful to have someone else on the call with you, so they can listen, take notes or help with any questions.

We know that having treatment delayed or changed, or the possibility of that happening, is distressing and we want you to know that we are here for you during this difficult time. Our services, including our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000, are open and ready to support you.

What is my risk if I had previously had radiotherapy or brachytherapy?

If you previously had radiotherapy or brachytherapy, you are not considered at high risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. Instead, you should follow the national guidance where you live or self-isolate if you or someone in the household has coronavirus symptoms. 

If you are worried, it is best to speak with your healthcare team to get advice specific to your situation. If you cannot contact your healthcare team, try to get in touch with your GP by phone. 

If you have recently had surgery or are due to have it, the treatment alone does not put you at high risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. But it is important to follow the national guidance where you live and get specific advice from your healthcare team.

In this information, surgery includes LLETZ, cone biopsy, trachelectomy, hysterectomy, pelvic exenteration and any lymph node removal. 

How does surgery affect my risk of coronavirus?

Surgery itself doesn’t usually have a big impact on the immune system, but you are more likely to pick up infections while you recover. Because you would have the surgery in hospital, and possibly stay there to recover, your healthcare team will keep you updated about any risk and take steps to protect you.

If you have recently had surgery and aren’t feeling completely back to normal, remember that everyone needs time to recover and heals at a different pace. If you are worried, speak with your healthcare team. 

What should I do to reduce my risk?

You should follow the national guidance where you live and any specific advice from your healthcare team if you have recently had or are due to have surgery.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus or you have been in contact with someone who does, you should let your healthcare team know and follow the national guidance to self-isolate.

Will my surgery still happen?

Your healthcare team will talk to you about any changes or delays to your treatment. Before making any decisions, they will look at your risk if treatment is delayed and your risk of being exposed to coronavirus in the hospital. Some treatments may also be delayed because of pressure on the NHS. 

If your treatment continues as planned, your healthcare team will also ask you to come to the hospital on your own and not to have visitors while you are there, to lower the risk of spreading coronavirus.

If you are worried, speak to your healthcare team. It may help to prepare some questions before the call. We have a list of suggested questions in our blog about the impact of coronavirus on people having treatment.

Read our blog >

If possible, it may be useful to have someone else on the call with you, so they can listen, take notes or help with any questions.

We know that having treatment delayed or changed, or the possibility of that happening, is distressing and we want you to know that we are here for you during this difficult time. Our services, including our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000, are open and ready to support you.

Many clinical trials have been stopped or adapted due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is because of pressure on the NHS, as well as the risk of taking part in clinical trials. 

If your clinical trial adapts, they may move to doing things remotely. For example, you may be asked to have follow up appointments remotely or to pick up medicines in locations away from the hospital. Speak with your healthcare team to find out what is happening with your clinical trial.

If your clinical trial is testing a chemotherapy or immunotherapy treatment, you are considered at higher risk of coronavirus. Your healthcare team will take this into account when deciding when to continue the trial. If you unsure what to do, speak with them for advice and follow the national guidance where you live. 

We know that having a clinical trial stopped, or the possibility of that happening, is distressing and we want you to know that we are here for you during this difficult time. Our services, including our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000, are open and ready to support you.

Long-term impacts of cervical cancer and coronavirus

If you are getting support for long-term impacts of a cervical cancer diagnosis or treatments, your appointments may not be possible at the moment and may need to be rescheduled. We understand this can be worrying, especially if physical or emotional conditions could become worse without this support. 

Many places are offering virtual appointments by phone or video call. If this is the case for your appointments, we know it may be a difficult adjustment, so we have created some guidance to help you make the most of those sessions.

Read about virtual appointments >

We also have lots of information about looking after your mental health, developed with and for our community.

Get our tips for supporting your mental health >

Questions to ask your professional:

  • Can you let me know when it will next be possible to book a session or appointment?
  • [If no to the above] Will you contact me about appointments, or should I contact you?
  • Can you recommend any other sources of support I should contact?

If you are currently having fertility treatment or pursuing alternative ways to have a child, the coronavirus pandemic may have caused further difficulty at an already stressful time. We hope the information in this section helps, but if you would prefer to speak with someone or need emotional support, please call our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000.

Fertility treatment and coronavirus

Fertility clinics are currently open. They will have safety measures in place to protect your health and that of its staff. However, if cases of coronavirus continue to increase, some clinics may make decisions on whether to pause or proceed with fertility treatment on a case-by-case basis. Please contact your clinic if you have any questions or concerns, as they will able to advise you.  

Read the latest updates >

Adoption and coronavirus

If you are in the process of adopting, it is best to speak with your adoption agency. Decisions on whether to pause or proceed with adoptions are currently being made on a case-by-case basis, so your agency will be able to advise what is happening with your case and what, if anything, you need to do. 

If you have adopted and are worried about what the coronavirus pandemic means for your family, Adoption UK have lots of helpful guidance on their website. You can also give our free Helpline a call for emotional support on 0808 802 8000.

Read more at Adoption UK >

Surrogacy and coronavirus

If you currently planning or have progressed with surrogacy, it is best to contact your healthcare or midwifery team. They will be able to give advice specific to your situation. You may know that pregnant women are considered extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, which will understandably be worrying, but you can support surrogates to follow national guidance where they live. Surrogacy UK have more information on their website that you might find helpful. You can also give our free Helpline a call for emotional support on 0808 802 8000.

Read more at Surrogacy UK >

Access to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and appointments related to menopause may be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Visit Women’s Health Concern >

If you are currently on HRT

You may be used to having HRT check-up appointment to see how you are responding to the medication. Instead of an in-person appointment, you may be offered a virtual appointment by phone or video call. If your appointment is delayed, it is still important to let your GP surgery if you are having problems with your HRT.

Read about virtual appointments >

You should be able to request repeat HRT prescriptions as you usually would. Try to leave plenty of time for your order to be processed as it may take longer. If you do not have a repeat prescription, you can call your GP surgery and ask for one. 

If you are waiting for HRT or are changing your HRT

If you are waiting for an HRT prescription, or are changing to a different type of HRT, you may experience more of a delay because your GP would usually see you for an appointment. If you are unsure what is happening with your HRT, it is best to call your GP surgery and ask. They will be able to explain what is happening with your medication and why.  

Menopause clinics

Some NHS menopause clinics are running a telephone service instead of seeing patients in person. If yours isn’t and you choose to use a private provider, make sure they are registered with the British Menopause Society. 

Visit the British Menopause Society website >

Treatment and appointment delays

Cancer treatments and services remain a priority for the NHS and staff have worked throughout the pandemic to make sure they continue.  

However, we know there have been some worrying media reports about cancer treatments being delayed. While this won’t be the case for most people, your healthcare team will let you know what will happen in your situation. If you are worried about delays, it is best to speak with your healthcare team.

Questions to ask your CNS, consultant or the hospital:

  • Can you explain why it’s safe for my appointment or treatment to be delayed?
  • Can you let me know my new appointment or treatment date?
  • [If no to the above] Can you give me an idea of when I will have a new appointment date?
  • Who can I contact if I have questions or worries?

We know none of this is easy and that it may feel overwhelming. We are here to support you in any way that we can during this difficult time, so our free Helpline is still open. We may not have all the answers but we can listen – give us a call on 0808 802 8000.

Coronavirus and cancer FAQs

In this section we answer some of the most common questions we get about cervical cancer and coronavirus. If you don’t see your question, our support services may be able to help.

Get support >

We know it can be worrying when you notice unusual symptoms, and that it may be especially concerning at the moment. If you have symptoms, you should ring your GP surgery and ask for a phone appointment.

Your GP will assess you over the phone to help decide the next steps. They may ask about your medical history to try to figure out what is causing the symptoms. Once they know more about your individual situation, they will decide whether they need to see you at a face-to-face appointment to do a further examination. 

At the moment, the aim is to protect you and health workers from coronavirus, so your GP may decide that you do not need a face-to-face appointment. It is important to remember that cervical cancer is rare, so the likelihood that your symptoms are caused by cervical cancer is low. 

Read more about cervical cancer symptoms >

The current evidence does not suggest that you are at higher risk of getting or becoming seriously ill with coronavirus if you have lymphoedema caused by cervical cancer treatment. 

You may be worried because lymphoedema affects the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. The COVID-19 strain of coronavirus affects the lungs and airways (respiratory system), so you should not become seriously ill solely because you have lymphedema that affects the limbs or pelvis. 

However, it is still important to follow the government advice that is relevant to you – whether that is staying alert and at home as much as possible, self-isolating or shielding. If you are unsure which advice to follow, it is best to speak with your healthcare team. 

Read the Lymphoedema Support Network’s information >

The current evidence does not suggest that you are at higher risk of getting or becoming seriously ill with coronavirus if you have PRD. However, it is still important to follow the government advice that is relevant to you – whether that is staying at home, self-isolating or shielding. If you are unsure which advice to follow, it is best to speak with your healthcare team.

How we can help

We know that this is an uncertain time, with delays to appointments and treatment causing a lot of anxiety. We have created an online hub with content about coronavirus and how it may impact your life, as well as ways to manage that impact.

Visit our hub >

Our hub also has other useful resources about coronavirus, including guidance from the UK government and charities that can support you with different conditions. 

Getting support

Remember, we are here to support you and our services are still open if you want to talk through anything or simply have someone listen to your concerns on 0808 802 8000

Check our Helpline opening hours >

We also have a welcoming community in our online Forum, where you can get and give support. There are a few conversations about coronavirus, so you can choose to read existing threads or post your own messages. 

Join our Forum >

If you have general questions about cervical cancer, our Ask the Expert service may be able to help. Submit your question confidentially to our panel of experts and get a tailored reply. 

Use our Ask the Expert service >

Thank you to all the experts and service users who have contributed to this information. 

References

For more information about the references we used, please contact [email protected]

Call our Helpline

If you have questions or need to talk, call our Helpline for support.

See the opening times

One Cancer Voice

Jo’s is part of the One Cancer Voice group of charities who have produced FAQs about Coronavirus for people with cancer.

Read advice and FAQs
Date last updated: 
01 Apr 2021
Date due for review: 
15 May 2021
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