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Coping with cancer during the coronavirus outbreak

Coping with a diagnosis of cancer is difficult. For many, the coronavirus is an extra concern and worry. Help and support is available and there are things you can do to help yourself.

My treatment has changed/been delayed and I’m worried about whether I’m getting the treatment I need

As a result of the outbreak, there may be changes to your hospital appointments and treatment plan. Some people are having telephone appointments with their consultant or specialist nurse instead. It is understandable that you might miss the reassurance of going into the hospital clinic to see familiar faces.

Your healthcare team will do their best to support you and protect you from developing COVID-19. If coronavirus is a particular worry for you, do mention this. Write down any questions you have so that you remember to ask them.

It is understandable that you might feel very worried if your cancer treatment changes or is delayed. Cancer treatment usually feels urgent, and it can be very unsettling to face changes to your treatment plan.

Understanding more about how your team make decisions about treatment might help you to cope. Our page about treatment and coronavirus has more information about how and why the doctors make decisions.

Coping with worry and anxiety

It can be very difficult if you are advised to stay at home and reduce face-to-face contact. Getting support from others is important. Talk to those close to you when you can and stay in touch in whatever way you can, whether by phone, online or letter. It helps to share what is making you anxious. And knowing you are not alone can help you cope better.

If you are feeling scared or anxious about coronavirus, it might be sensible to limit the time you spend looking at social media or news on TV. Only use reliable sources of information, such as our information and NHS websites.


  • Have a routine
  • Eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of fluids and avoid getting into unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking alcohol.
  • Keep active - the NHS website has tips for keeping fit at home
  • Try to do things you enjoy such as reading, jigsaws, cooking, drawing.
  • Keep in contact with family and friends – use an app so you can see them, you could eat a meal together while chatting.
  • Get fresh air – open your windows, if you have a garden go in it, or sit on your step keeping at least a 2 metre distance from anyone. 

Where can I get help and support?

You can call our nurse freephone helpline on 0808 800 4040. They are available from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Or you can send them a question online.

Cancer Chat is our online forum where you can share experiences.

There are different charities and organisations that offer online support or telephone support.

Can I get help with getting food and medicines?

Ask friends and family to help pick up shopping or organise deliveries if possible. If this is difficult, there may a local volunteer group or charities that can help. Some of these have been formed as a result of the virus.

Many local authorities have developed schemes to help with things like shopping and getting medicines.  Look at your local authority website or contact them directly to see what help they can offer you.

In England, the NHS have set up a scheme to help with food parcels and delivery of medicines. 
You can ask for this support by registering online.

How is COVID-19 affecting your life with cancer?

Cancer Research UK is running a 15 minute survey and we would like to hear from people affected by cancer. Please tell us about:

  • any changes to your treatment and care
  • its effect on your day to day life

Your experience will help inform the work that Cancer Research UK does in response to the impact of coronavirus on cancer patients in the UK.

More information

Last reviewed: 
14 May 2020
Next review due: 
12 Jun 2020

Information and help