COVID-19 is an infectious illness caused by a type of coronavirus. The virus can affect your breathing or respiratory system. Symptoms can vary, some people have mild symptoms, and others have severe symptoms.
The virus spreads when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, talks, or sings. This releases tiny droplets into the air. These droplets can reach anyone nearby, and they can get the virus.
Am I at more risk of becoming unwell with COVID-19 because I have cancer?
Some people with cancer are at a higher risk of complications. This is because cancer and its treatment can weaken your
Some types of cancer can also lower your ability to fight infection. This is usually cancer that affects your immune system, such as
The information on this page is for adults with cancer. Please visit the Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) website for coronavirus information for children with cancer.
Symptoms of COVID-19
You can read more about the symptoms of coronavirus infection on the NHS website.
If you are having cancer treatment or have had it, or have a cancer that affects your immune system, reach out for support if you:
have symptoms of coronavirus
You can contact:
your chemotherapy helpline
the Acute Oncology Service at your hospital
Your healthcare team will assess you over the phone and might ask you to stay at home.
Call 999 immediately if you are feeling very ill.
If you have symptoms but are not having cancer treatment, you can look at the NHS coronavirus information or call NHS 111.
How do I protect myself from coronavirus if I have cancer?
If you have a weakened immune system, you are at higher risk of getting unwell with an infection. You should protect yourself from coronavirus in the same way as you would against other infections. This might include wearing a mask when around others. Follow the advice from your healthcare team for your situation.
You can read more general information about protecting yourself against coronavirus. Follow the link to your part of the UK at the bottom of this page.
Treatment for COVID-19
People most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 can have treatment with antiviral and antibody drugs. This includes people with a weakened immune system, such as those:
- with certain types of cancer
- who had treatment for certain types of cancer
- with a blood cancer
The drugs include:
- molnupiravir (Lagevrio)
- nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (Paxlovid)
- remdesivir (Veklury)
- sotrovimab (Xevudy) -
a monoclonal antibody drug
How to get a COVID-19 treatment?
Follow the links lower down on this page to your part of the country for more information on how to get a COVID-19 treatment.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine and cancer
A vaccine is a type of medicine. It trains the body's
Specialists say that it is important for people with cancer to have the vaccine, and it is safe.
The type of vaccine you have depends on several factors, including availability. Two commonly available COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), are:
If you're about to start treatment that will cause a weakened immune system
You may need extra protection against coronavirus if you are about to start treatment that severely weakens your immune system. Your doctor will be able to tell you what type of vaccine to have and when to have it.
If you have severe allergies
Talk to your GP or healthcare team if you have:
- severe allergies
- had a life-threatening allergic reaction that happened very quickly (anaphylaxis) to a vaccine in the past
They can advise on what to do and whether you can have a COVID-19 vaccine. They may:
- refer you to a specialist clinic for your vaccination
- suggest you have an alternative COVID-19 vaccine
Seasonal COVID-19 vaccines
Seasonal COVID-19 jabs are available to:
people in a care home for older adults
people 65 years and over
those aged six months to 64 years whose health condition put them at higher risk, including some people with cancer
front line health and social care workers
anyone aged 12 to 64 years who lives in the same house as someone with a weakened immune system
anyone aged 16 to 64 years who are carers and staff working in care homes for older adults
How do I book an appointment for a seasonal COVID-19 jab?
To book an appointment for a seasonal COVID-19 jab, follow the link to your part of the UK at the bottom of this page.
Vaccine side effects
Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
A very small number of people have had anaphylaxis when receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. If you have a history of an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the COVID-19 vaccine, you should not have it. You may have it if an expert says it is safe.
If you have any other allergies, such as a food allergy, including a previous anaphylaxis, you can usually have the vaccine.
Swollen lymph nodes
A side effect of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines is lymph node swelling. You might have swollen lymph nodes in the armpit of the arm you had the vaccine in.
A research study shows that 65 out of every 100 (65%) people had swollen lymph nodes in their armpit within 2 weeks of having a second dose of the vaccines.
Talk to your doctor if you are worried about swollen lymph nodes.
Other side effects
People are often worried about the side effects of vaccines. Your healthcare team or GP will be able to give you advice about your situation. It is best to do this before going for the vaccine.
The person giving you the vaccine will also give you advice. They will talk to you about the general side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines.
How well do the vaccines work for people with cancer?
Several studies have now published results on how well the vaccines work for people with cancer. In general, these studies show that if you have a weakened immune system, you might have less protection against the virus.
People with blood cancer, in particular, have less protection. This is when compared to people with solid cancers.
Protection against the virus increases with each dose for people with blood cancer. A recent study showed that after 3 doses of the jab, most people with a blood cancer had the same amount of
You can read more on the Blood Cancer UK website on how well the vaccines work for people with a blood cancer.
COVID-19 vaccine and cancer treatment
Specialists say that everyone having systemic anti cancer therapy (SACT) should be considered for the vaccine. Systemic anti cancer therapy includes treatments such as chemotherapy. It can cause a weakened immune system.
Your cancer treatment can also go ahead if you've had the vaccine. There is no need for your treatment to be delayed because of it.
When you can have the vaccine will depend on your type of treatment and where you are in your treatment plan.
Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse for specific advice for your circumstances.
The links below have more information on coronavirus in your part of the UK.
NHS inform has further information about the coronavirus for people living in Scotland.
The Scottish Government website has the latest guidance for people living in Scotland.
Public Health Wales has information and guidance for people living in Wales. Information is also available in Welsh.
The Welsh government website also has the latest guidance for people living in Wales.
The Public Health Agency has information for people living in Northern Ireland.
The government in Northern Ireland has the latest guidance on its website for people living in Northern Ireland.
The NHS website has all the latest information about the coronavirus and how to protect yourself.
The government website has the latest guidance for people living in England.