Coronavirus advice for young people with cancer

Find information about how to stay safe from coronavirus if you have a weakened immune system as a result of cancer. People who have a weakened immune system are at a higher risk of being really unwell if they catch coronavirus.  

Even though most restrictions have lifted across the UK you may still have questions about what you should and shouldn’t do. You can find information from the government website for your country, or from your GP or clinical care team. 

For children with cancer there is also information on the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia (CCLG) website

What are the coronavirus guidelines for people with cancer?

You’re still advised to take precautions to reduce your risk of catching coronavirus. 

Even if legal restrictions have lifted in your area, here are some ways you can help keep yourself safe:  

  • Follow all the advice from your clinical care team, which may include continuing to stay away from others. Cancer treatment sometimes involves periods of isolation anyway, if it’s important for your immune system to be protected from different infections (not just coronavirus). We know this can be really hard, so check out our isolation hacks for some ideas of how to keep a routine.   
  • Keep up to date with and follow the government coronavirus guidelines for where you live or where you are visiting. This is important because the rules will be different depending on which country you’re in.  
  • If you want to see other people, think about meeting outside or make sure the space you’re in is well ventilated.  
  • Wear a mask if you’re indoors with lots of people, or if it would make you more comfortable. Masks are still required in some places, like the hospital or doctors’ surgeries and on public transport. But even if they’re not, governments and advisers are still recommending people wear masks in busy indoor spaces. 
  • Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap, and use hand sanitiser when you’re out and about. It’s also a good idea to avoid touching your face. 
  • Choose to limit your contact with other people – you might want to only see a few select people and not meet in big groups, or you might decide you don’t want to start hugging people just yet. It’s OK to ask people if they’ve been vaccinated too, as that might reassure you. Telling the people you’re going to see what you’re comfortable with beforehand can also be helpful. 
  • Choose to limit how much you use public transport. You can talk to your school, college or place of work about how you can avoid peak times, if it’s not possible for you to walk, drive or cycle yourself. 
  • Use free coronavirus lateral flow tests regularly and ask those you’re meeting up with to test before you see them, too. You can order free packs of seven lateral flow tests here, or check your local government website.  
  • Keep an eye on how you’re feeling – if you’re feeling unwell, always look after yourself and check in with your clinical team. If you have any symptoms of coronavirus you should get a PCR test as soon as possible. You’re allowed to leave the house to get a test but after you’ve had it you should self-isolate at home until you get the results. You can find details of coronavirus symptoms on the NHS website here. If you test positive you will need to self-isolate. The legal rules around self-isolating because of coronavirus are changing so make sure you know what you need to do by checking online
  • Consider getting the coronavirus vaccine. If you haven’t had it already, and you’re old enough to be eligible, talk to your care team about any questions you might have. The vaccine provides the best protection for you and those around you, especially if you get all the doses you’re eligible for.

I am at a higher risk from COVID-19 and I have been asked to go back into work. What are my rights?

You might be asked to go back into work if you’ve been working from home. It’s OK to have mixed feelings about this, especially if you’re clinically extremely vulnerable. 

Your employer still has a legal requirement to make sure vulnerable people are kept safe at work. So, you should only make changes to your place of work once you’ve spoken to your GP or clinical care team about making sure you stay safe.   

If you are asked to change your working pattern, there are a few things you might find helpful to do:  

  1. Talk to your employer. Explaining your situation and why you’re anxious about going back into work can help them find a way to make sure you’re safe. They will keep whatever you say confidential if others at your workplace don’t know about your cancer treatment.  

  1. Ask if you can work somewhere else. You might be able to keep working from home for longer, for example.  

  1. You can ask your employer about things they could put in place to help you feel safer, like continuing with mask wearing or social distancing in your place of work.  

  1. Ask if they’ve read the latest guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive about protecting those who might be at higher risk

  1. In the short term, you could ask to take some paid holiday, if you have any owed to you. 

  1. As someone with cancer, you are also protected by the Equality Act (England, Scotland and Wales) or the Disability Discrimination Act (Northern Ireland). That means that your employer has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to make sure you’re able to work safely.  

Macmillan Cancer Support (PDF) also have some really helpful info on reasonable adjustments, and a directory of organisations who could help you with questions about your workplace. 

You can find more detailed information about employment help and support available to you in your country through your government’s website.