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Coronavirus (COVID-19) and cervical cancer

This page has information about coronavirus (COVID-19) for people who have or have had cervical cancer. We will update this page as we get more queries and if the official advice changes. 

We know that this may be an especially anxious time if you have cervical cancer. If you would prefer to speak with someone, call our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000.

This information does not replace any advice from your healthcare team. 

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

Shielding, self-isolation and staying at home

The UK government has issued guidance that everyone needs to follow one of the measures below:

  • Shielding. Shielding applies to people the government calls ‘extremely vulnerable’ because they are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. Most people in this group should receive a letter from the government advising them to practice shielding by staying at home for at least 12 weeks and avoiding contact with other people. Visit the GOV.uk website to read this guidance >
  • Self-isolation. Self-isolation means you should stay at home completely and not go out if possible. People who should self-isolate are people who have symptoms of coronavirus and people who live with someone with symptoms. Visit the GOV.uk website to read this guidance >
  • Staying at home. Everyone should now stay at home as much as possible. You should only go out for food, health reasons or essential work. You should also keep at least 2 metres away from other people when outside. Visit the GOV.uk website to read this guidance >

Coronavirus

Coronavirus is a group of viruses. A new strain, named COVID-19, is currently affecting people worldwide.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a new, persistent cough 
  • a high temperature (fever).

Read more about symptoms on the NHS website >

What should I do if I think I have coronavirus?

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 live alone, you should self-isolate for 7 days. If you live with other people, everyone in the household should self-isolate for 14 days. 

If you have cervical cancer and think you have coronavirus, you must 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 :

Only 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.

Chemotherapy and coronavirus

If you are currently having chemotherapy, you are at high risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus and should practice shielding.

How does chemotherapy affect my risk of coronavirus?

Chemotherapy can affect your immune system and make it less able to fight off a virus. If you are currently having chemotherapy, the government advice is to practice shielding. Shielding means you should stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks. 

You may have received a letter from the government advising you about shielding. If you think you fall into the ‘extremely vulnerable’ group but have not received a letter or been contacted by your healthcare team, call them and talk about any concerns.

It is very important you follow the government advice to practice shielding by staying at home and avoiding face-to-face contact. You may have to attend chemotherapy appointments, but otherwise ask friends and family or use online services to get food and other essentials. If you do not have a support network nearby, the government is also offering assistance.

Visit the GOV.uk website >

Should I still go to my chemotherapy appointments? 

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

If you are worried about attending chemotherapy appointments, it is best to speak with your healthcare team and get their advice. They will be able to talk you through what is happening with your treatment and why. 

Will my chemotherapy be stopped or delayed?

It is possible that your healthcare team will try to limit the amount of time you spend at the hospital by delaying your treatment. They may want to do this if your risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus is greater than your risk if treatment is delayed. Your healthcare team may also suggest temporarily having a different treatment that has less impact on your immune system, to help lower your risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus.

Ultimately, your healthcare team wants to protect and do what’s best for you. 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 about your treatment being affected, speak to your healthcare team. It may help to prepare some questions before the call, such as:

  • Is my treatment likely to be delayed or changed?
  • Can you explain why my treatment is being delayed or changed?
  • What are my treatment options while this situation is ongoing?
  • What is the risk of me being in hospital versus the risk of having treatment delayed?

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 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 should I do if I live with other people?

If you live with others, it may be difficult to avoid face-to-face contact with them. However, it is important that you and they support you in shielding as much as possible. Some steps to take are:

  • Keeping at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away from other people. 
  • If you have a partner, consider sleeping in a different bed if possible. 
  • Everyone should try to spend less time in shared spaces and make sure all spaces are thoroughly cleaned.

Visit the GOV.uk website for full guidance >

Shielding aims to keep you as safe as possible, so you do not come into contact with coronavirus and become seriously ill. But we know it may be hard, especially when you are already coping with a cervical cancer diagnosis. Try to make looking after your mental health a priority. Some charities have put together general guidance on looking after your mental health while you are at home, including:

We also have information about how a cervical cancer diagnosis can impact mental health, along with ways to manage. Not all of the tips will apply to shielding, but some may be helpful.

Read our cervical cancer and mental health information >

Remember that our services are here to support you too. If you need a chat while you are at home, give our free Helpline a call on 0808 802 8000.

What is my risk of coronavirus if I have previously had chemotherapy?

If you had chemotherapy in the past, your immune system should have built back up, so you are at less risk and do not have to practice shielding. Instead, you should:

  • stay at home 
  • 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 seen 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. You can also choose to practice shielding if it would make you feel safer.

Radiotherapy, brachytherapy and coronavirus

Radiotherapy and brachytherapy don’t usually have a big impact on the immune system, so if you are having or have had these treatments you have less risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. However, if you are going to appointments at the hospital, it is important to protect yourself from coronavirus as much as possible.

What should I do if I am currently having radiotherapy or brachytherapy?

It is very important you follow the government advice to stay at home. Staying at home means you should not leave the house unless it is absolutely necessary to attend radiotherapy or brachytherapy appointments or to get essentials such as food. If possible, ask friends or family to food shop or collect medicines for you, then drop them outside your door.

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

Should I still go for my radiotherapy or brachytherapy appointments?

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

If you are worried about attending your appointments, it is best to speak with your healthcare team and get their advice. They will be able to talk you through what is happening with your treatment and why.

Will my radiotherapy or brachytherapy be stopped or delayed?

It is possible that your healthcare team will try to limit the amount of time you spend at the hospital by delaying your treatment. They may want to do this if your risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus is greater than your risk if treatment is delayed. 

Ultimately, your healthcare team wants to protect and do what’s best for you. 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 about your treatment being affected, speak to your healthcare team. It may help to prepare some questions before the call, such as:

  • Is my treatment likely to be delayed or changed?
  • Can you explain why my treatment is being delayed or changed?
  • What are my treatment options while this situation is ongoing?
  • What is the risk of me being in hospital versus the risk of having treatment delayed?

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 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 should I do if I had radiotherapy or brachytherapy in the past?

It is still important you follow the government advice to stay at home unless you need to go out for health reasons, essential items such as food, or because you are a key worker.

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

Surgery and coronavirus

If you have had surgery for cervical cancer in the past, that alone does not make your risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus higher. Surgery for cervical cancer includes LLETZ, cone biopsy, trachelectomy, hysterectomy, pelvic exenteration, and any lymph node removal. 

It is important that you follow the government advice to stay at home, or self-isolate if you or someone you have been in contact with have had symptoms of coronavirus. 

What should I do if I have planned surgery for cervical cancer?

If you are due to have any kind of surgery for cervical cancer, your healthcare team will assess whether the treatment is still safe to go ahead. They will look at your risk of getting coronavirus compared with your risk if the surgery is delayed. 

Ultimately, your healthcare team wants to protect and do what’s best for you. 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 about your treatment being affected, speak to your healthcare team. It may help to prepare some questions before the call, such as:

  • Is my treatment likely to be delayed or changed?
  • Can you explain why my treatment is being delayed or changed?
  • What are my treatment options while this situation is ongoing?
  • What is the risk of me being in hospital versus the risk of having treatment delayed?

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.

If your surgery is going ahead, but you are worried about going to the hospital, it is best to speak with your healthcare team. They can explain what is happening with your surgery and why.

We know that having treatment delayed, 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.

Clinical trials and coronavirus

We know that, like other treatments, some clinical trials have been postponed, cancelled or have stopped recruiting. This is because of pressure on the NHS as well as the risk to people taking part in clinical trials. 

If you are currently taking part in a clinical trial, it is possible that it will adapt to the current situation. For example, you may be asked to have follow ups remotely or to pick up medicines in locations away from the hospital.

It is best to speak with your healthcare team to find out what is happening with your trial.

We know that having a clinical trial delayed, 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. 

How we can help

We know that this is an uncertain time and delays to appointments can cause 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. It also has other useful resources about coronavirus, including guidance from the UK government and charities that can support you with different conditions.

Visit the hub >

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 >

We have written this information using the following guidance and information:

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

Call our helpline

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

View opening times
Date last updated: 
06 Apr 2020

Have a question? Need to talk?

Call our free helpline now on 0808 802 8000.

Have a chat with our trained helpliners to get your questions answered. Get information on HPV, cervical screening, the HPV vaccine, cell changes (abnormal cells) or cervical cancer. No question is too big or too small.