Coronavirus and cancer

We know it’s a worrying time for people with cancer, we have information to help. If you have symptoms of cancer contact your doctor.

Read our information about coronavirus and cancer

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) and children’s cancer

Managing family life when you have a child with cancer can be stressful. And the constant news about the coronavirus can be worrying.

Parents and carers of children with cancer might feel especially worried about the virus. Cancer and its treatment can lower your child’s ability to fight infection. Your child with cancer and their brothers or sisters might be worried too.

You can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses if you would like to talk to someone at this worrying time.

Talk to the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday .

We have information on this page about:

  • what do to if your child has any signs or symptoms of cancer
  • the guidance about coronavirus for children having, or who’ve finished, cancer treatment

Your child’s treating team can give you any updates about any changes to their treatment plan because of the coronavirus pandemic.

I’m worried my child has cancer

Children’s cancer is rare. Symptoms of cancer can be very similar to those of other childhood illnesses. And they vary between children. We have detailed information on the possible signs and symptoms of cancer in children.

It’s unlikely your concern or worry will go away without taking some action. Don’t let the current coronavirus situation put you off seeking medical care for your child.

You know what’s normal for your child. Contact your GP if you notice something that is not right. If something is seriously wrong call 999 or go to your nearest children’s (paediatric) A&E.

Your GP might arrange a phone appointment first, to find out if your child needs to be seen by a doctor. GP surgeries and hospitals are continuing to make changes to the way they work. This is so they are as safe as possible for children to get the care they need.

Children’s hospitals and wards are open and specialist teams are available.

Children’s cancer and leukaemia group guidance (CCLG)

We are learning more about coronavirus all the time. This includes finding out coronavirus does not affect children as much as previously thought. This has meant the CCLG have updated their guidance.

Who is this for?

This guidance is for children and young people up to the age of 18 who:

  • are having treatment for cancer
  • have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant

Why has the guidance changed?

Experts in children’s cancer update the guidance based on new research and evidence. We know that fewer children than adults get the coronavirus infection. And only a small number of children with cancer in the UK have tested positive for coronavirus. Most of them have had a very mild disease.

The experts have looked at the data in the UK and from across the world. This has shown that the risk of a severe coronavirus infection in children with cancer is low.

Extremely vulnerable group

Your child might be in the extremely vulnerable group. Children and young people who are clinically extremely vulnerable are at high risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus.

Your child’s medical team will be able to explain to you which group they are in and why. Your child might move between the groups at times during their treatment.

The guidance states that these children and young people should continue shielding. This means staying at home and avoiding face-to-face contact. You can continue to have visits from anyone who helps your child with essential support. For example, healthcare staff or carers.

Your other children should not go to school and you should avoid going to work where possible.

We know that shielding is very challenging for families, especially with young children. The CCLG acknowledge that completely separating yourselves at home is impossible. They recommend following the advice as much as possible by:

  • regular handwashing
  • wiping down surfaces you touch regularly
  • avoiding touching your face

The CCLG will review their guidance on shielding for children in the extremely vulnerable group as more information becomes available.

Vulnerable group

Your child might be in the clinically vulnerable group. They are at moderate, rather than high risk, of a serious coronavirus infection. Your child’s medical team will be able to explain to you which group they are in and why. Your child might move between the groups during their treatment.

The CCLG guidance suggests that children and young people in the vulnerable group no longer need to shield. This group should follow the government guidance for everyone about staying alert and safe. Children and young people in the vulnerable group could attend school when they reopen. Their siblings can also go back to school. They should still:

  • follow social distancing guidance
  • wash their hands regularly
  • avoid touching their face

We know this is a change and might feel like a big step.

You could talk to your child’s medical team and school to help you with any of these decisions.

More information

Please go to the CCLG website to get more details on the coronavirus guidance. They explain which children are in the vulnerable and extremely vulnerable groups.

The UK government have information about staying alert and safe (social distancing).

Home schooling

The government has online educational resources for schools and parents to help children to learn at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

I need help and support

It is important to look after yourself as well during this time. It’s a very challenging time, especially without the additional support of family and friends. Try not to be too hard on yourself.

You can feel more in control by eating a balanced diet, staying physically active and looking after your mental wellbeing.

We have tips on how to stay physically and mentally healthy during lockdown.

There is a lot of support available to help you and your family.

Cancer Research UK Information Nurses

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available.

Children's cancer organisations

We have more information on different children's cancer organisations. You can contact for them for information, help and support. 

CCLG and CLIC Sargent COVID-19 additional advice and support

The CCLG and CLIC Sargent have been working together to provide extra information on COVID-19 and children’s cancer. This includes help with:

  • welfare issues (with citizens advice)
  • food and shopping
  • going outside

Mind

The Mind website has a wellbeing hub with advice on how to protect your mental health during coronavirus. It has practical advice on coping with staying at home and updates on how the new coronavirus laws could affect your rights.

It has a section for young people who are struggling with their mental health during the pandemic.

NHS Every Mind Matters Website

The NHS Every Mind Matters website has expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing. It shows you where to get urgent support through this stressful time.

Last reviewed: 
08 Jun 2020
Next review due: 
04 Sep 2020
  • COVID-19 guidance for children and young people with cancer undergoing treatment

    Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group, Updated May 2020

  • Guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from COVID-19

    Public Health England, 21 March 2020

  • Guidance: Staying alert and safe (social distancing)

    The Cabinet Office, 11 May 2020

Information and help