Due to the current climate we feel it is sensible to provide information on COVID-19 for bowel cancer patients and their whānau. People on bowel cancer treatment should stay at home as much as they can and if you are scheduled for cancer treatment you should still go in for it.

Most outpatient appointments will change to virtual consultations (such as telephone conversations). You will be contacted with details. If you’re unwell, please contact your cancer treatment team to let them know and if you are sick, hospital is still the safest place for you but please phone first. People are also encouraged to get the flu vaccination.

As always we advise people to contact their oncologist if they have concerns, or where that is not possible their GP, to get specific information for their individual situation. The government is continually updating their advice in relation to COVID-19 and provide the most up-to-date information currently available.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause common colds, as well as more serious respiratory diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a type of coronavirus. There are simple steps below that you can take to protect you and your whānau.

What can I do to help protect myself & others?

We recommend everyone follows these simple steps from the MoH around reducing the risk of picking up infections including thoroughly washing your hands frequently, practicing good hygiene and avoiding contact with people who are unwell.

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or by covering your mouth and nose with tissues.
  • Put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often (for at least 20 seconds).
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • Avoid personal contact, such as kissing, sharing cups or food with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.
  • Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms and have been to any countries or territories of concern or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19.

What do bowel cancer patients need to know?

Cancer patients who finished treatment a few years ago or longer have immune systems that have most likely recovered, but each person is different. Some people with bowel cancer are more at risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract the COVID-19 infection (commonly known as the coronavirus), including:

  • People having chemotherapy, or who have received chemotherapy in the last three months
  • People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for bowel cancer
  • People having other targeted bowel cancer treatments which can affect the immune system
  • People having intensive (radical) radiotherapy
  • People who are taking immunosuppression drugs

Please make sure you talk to your oncologist if you have concerns. People in these groups may be advised to minimise their risk of exposure to COVID-19 infection by avoiding crowded environments, limiting social interaction and maintaining careful hand hygiene.

Symptoms

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature (at least 38°C)
  • shortness of breath.

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have COVID-19. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu. Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

It isn’t yet known how long symptoms take to show after a person has been infected, but current World Health Organization (WHO) assessments suggest that it is 2–10 days.

If you have these symptoms and have recently been to a country or area of concern, or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19, please telephone Healthline (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or your doctor immediately.

How does the virus spread?

According to health experts, the virus spreads mainly from person-to-person:

  • When somebody who is infected and coughs or sneezes, the virus can be spread in respiratory droplets.
  • These droplets might reach the mouths or noses of people who are in close contact, which could lead to an infection.

The droplets can also land on surfaces, which people might then touch. This could potentially lead to an infection if a person then touches their mouth or nose.

That’s why it’s really important to use good hygiene, regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands, and use good cough etiquette.

How to manage your mental wellbeing

The MoH says media coverage or public discussion of COVID-19 may affect people. It’s normal to feel distressed and experience symptoms of stress in this time. Below are some tips that may help.

  1. Spend time in places that feel safe and comfortable as much as possible.
  2. Tell yourself that how you are feeling is a normal reaction and will pass – it is nothing to be afraid of.
  3. Reach out to your usual supports – family and whānau, friends and workmates. Sharing how we feel and offering support to others is important.
  4. Keep to usual routines – mealtimes, bedtime, exercise and so on.
  5. Keep active – going to work, doing usual leisure activities and seeing friends can improve general wellbeing and help distract from distressing feelings.

Is there a vaccine for the new coronavirus?

There’s no vaccine available yet against the virus that causes COVID-19. Several pharmaceutical companies are working on vaccines and treatments. However experts say, it will likely be at least a year or a year and half before a vaccine might be available.