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We have the answers to some of your frequently asked questions about ovarian cancer and coronavirus. We will continue to update these in the coming weeks.

For more information about the latest government guidance and guidance from the One Cancer Voice* charities in partnership with NHS England visit our coronavirus and ovarian cancer updates page.

If you have any specific questions or concerns about your own situation you can contact our confidential nurse-led support line by calling 020 7923 5475, Monday to Friday, 9am – 5.30pm.

[We make every effort to ensure that the information we provide is accurate. If you are concerned about your health, you should consult your doctor. Target Ovarian Cancer cannot accept liability for any loss or damage resulting from any inaccuracy in this information or third party information on websites to which we link.]

This information is correct as of 9 April 2020.

I didn’t think I would be in the ‘high risk’ group that needed to shield but I have received a government letter saying I am/I thought I would be in the ‘high risk’ that needed to shield but I have not received a government letter saying I am. Why is

The government advice recommends that people in certain high risk groups stay at home and avoid all face-to-face contact. This is called shielding.

Shielding is recommended for people who are considered extremely vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus, and this includes people who are having chemotherapy or some other targeted cancer treatments, including PARP inhibitors

The criteria for cancer patients were carefully defined, based on those with greatest clinical risk.  Some cancer patients may receive a letter because they have other conditions that place them in the highest risk group. Everyone who is in the extremely vulnerable category should have received a letter. If you were expecting to get a letter and didn’t by Sunday 29 March you should contact your clinical team or GP to discuss.

If you are unsure of your risk and what measures you should be taking, you should also speak with your clinical nurse specialist.  If this is not possible, you should contact your GP.

If you are in the extremely vulnerable group and you are required to stay in your house for 12 weeks, your letter will give details about where you can sign up for additional practical support (help with getting groceries and medication etc).

For others with cancer, not in one of the groups outlined in the government guidance, the Government is advising you should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. They are:

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough;
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible;
  • Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidance for more information;
  • Avoid large gatherings
  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet and social media
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

If you have any questions or concerns about your own situation you can contact our confidential nurse-led support line by calling 020 7923 5475, Monday to Friday, 9am – 5.30pm.

If I am on PARP inhibitors am I classed as at ‘high risk’ of / from coronavirus?

PARP inhibitors are drugs that are used to stop cancer cells from repairing themselves. PARP inhibitors for ovarian cancer are olaparib, niraparib, and rucaparib.

Being on PARP inhibitors means you are classed as extremely vulnerable. That’s because these type of treatments can affect your immune system (how your body fights of viruses), which means you are more at risk of getting an infection. So its important that you follow the advice in the letter you received to protect yourself and if you have any concerns or queries you can should contact your clinical nurse specialist.

If  you are in the extremely vulnerable group and you are required to stay in your house for 12 weeks, your letter will give details about where you can sign up for additional practical support (help with getting groceries and medication etc).

If you have any questions or concerns about your own situation you can contact our confidential nurse-led support line by calling 020 7923 5475, Monday to Friday, 9am – 5.30pm.

I’m concerned about attending hospital for my appointments. Will they be safe?

If you must go into hospital for appointments, including chemotherapy, your clinical team will be well aware of your vulnerabilities and will making every possible effort to safeguard your wellbeing whilst you are in their care receiving your treatment.

Busy places as you enter the hospital, lifts and communal areas will all be part of the new regime, however everyone must also follow the government advice on keeping themselves safe and following social distances and social shielding measures.

If you feel in need of greater reassurance then phone your hospital and ask for them to explain the measures they are putting place.

For more information take a look at the UK Government guidance on shielding.

If I am shielding, should I still attend my medical appointments?

The government advice recommends that people in certain high risk groups stay at home and avoid all face-to-face contact. This is called shielding.

Shielding is recommended for people who are considered extremely vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus, and this includes people who are having chemotherapy and some other targeted cancer treatments, including PARP inhibitors.

Government advice states that you should not leave your house, except to attend essential medical appointments. If you are affected, and have a scheduled treatment or medical appointment, contact your treatment team or hospital to confirm that your appointment is absolutely essential. Always seek advice from your treating team, do not make decisions about not attending for treatment without a discussion with a member of that team.

Speak with your clinical team about the effects of the current situation on your individual treatment plan. This may vary between individual women so don’t be concerned if you are being treated differently to someone else.

Most hospitals have started to use more telephone consultations as a way of helping people to avoid long waits in clinics and for treatment. You may be called to arrange your treatments in this way, and planned treatments may need to be moved to ensure that treatment is delivered in the safest possible way for each woman.

I have just finished chemotherapy. Is my immune system still low and therefore am I high risk?

How quickly the immune system recovers from chemotherapy varies from person to person and it is impossible to categorically say whether a person is at higher risk of catching coronavirus than someone who hasn’t had chemotherapy.

Because of the level of social restriction now advised by the guidance for extremely vulnerable people, the criteria for cancer patients were carefully defined, based on those with greatest clinical risk. 

Hospital Trusts have however been advised that where they identify other patients who they consider to be at the very highest risk, they should write to them and, in each case, inform their GP that they have done so, so their records can be updated.

If someone has finished chemotherapy within the last 3 months, is unsure of their risk and what measures they should be taking, they should speak with their hospital team.  If this is not possible, they should contact their GP.

If I am shielding, can I still go in the garden?

We know that time outside and fresh air is very important. You can try spending time with the window open to let in the fresh air and if you try and find a space sit with a nice view try spending time with the windows open to let in the fresh air, arranging space to sit with a nice view

If you have private space you can go outside. This could be a private garden or even your door step but it important that you keep two metres away from neighbours and household members.