Coronavirus and Prostate Cancer: The Facts

The recent media coverage surrounding the coronavirus COVID-19 can be incredibly alarming, especially for those living with underlying health conditions such as cancer. Here at PCRC, we want to explore what COVID-19 means for those affected by prostate cancer and provide our readers with the information they need to stay safe. The charity, Mind, also has lots of useful information about coping with the stress and worry around coronavirus.

The information provided in this article was corrected on the date of publishing 12th March 2020. For the most up to date advice, please visit the NHS website.

What is Coronavirus? What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. At present, the term ‘coronavirus’ is usually intended to refer to COVID-19.

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

If I have prostate cancer, am I more likely to get or become seriously ill with coronavirus?

Certain treatments for prostate cancer can affect the immune system’s ability to fight infection. As a result, some people with prostate cancer are more likely to become seriously ill if infected with coronavirus. Those at a higher risk include people who are on or have had chemotherapy within the past three months, as well as people on immunotherapy. If you are unsure whether your treatment affects your immunity, it is important to check with your care provider or call the NHS on 111.

For those who have undergone treatment in the past, most people’s immune system will make a full recovery but this can vary depending on the type of cancer and the treatment received. Again, it is important to check with your doctor or call 111 if you are unsure.

It is important that those at risk minimise their chance of coronavirus infection by following the advice set out by the NHS. For example, wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. It may also be necessary for those with a weakened immune system to avoid crowded places and reduce contact with other people.

Will coronavirus affect prostate cancer treatment?

The NHS is committed to continuing to provide vital care and treatments to people with cancer. You should continue to attend all scheduled appointments and treatments, unless told otherwise by your care providers. If needs be, it may be possible for some care to take place at a patient’s home.

In the future, it may become necessary to prioritise patients with the greatest need. Decisions will be made in consultation with patients and cancer treatments should continue.

Number of Cases in the UK

As of 9am on 10 March 2020, only 373 out of 26,261 people tested have tested positive for COVID-19 in the UK. Six patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died. The UK Chief Medical Officers have defined the current risk level in the UK as moderate which means that the government should plan for all eventualities.

About 80% of people who test positive recover without needing special treatment.

Who is most at risk?

Those most at risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, if they are infected with it, are:

  • People over the age of 60
  • People who have underlying or serious chronic medical conditions like:
    • Cancer
    • Heart disease
    • High Blood Pressure
    • Diabetes
    • Lung disease

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The following symptoms may take up to 2-14 days after exposure to appear.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness

You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu. The symptoms are usually mild and start gradually.

How to protect yourself

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (ideally 40-60 seconds) especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or We suggest singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice while washing your hands. Dry your hands with a clean towel.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice respiratory hygiene: cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early, and stay home if you feel you are sick.
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Avoid public transport
  • Reduce contact with people

By following these guidelines, you can not only protect yourself, but you may also protect others.

What if I think I have contracted coronavirus?

If you believe you may have contracted coronavirus, call the NHS on 111. Ensure that you tell them about your prostate cancer diagnosis and any treatment that you are having/have had.

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine available for COVID-19 as it is still an incredibly new virus. Vaccines have been developed by researchers but these still need to undergo important safety tests.

Although it will not prevent coronavirus, it could be helpful for people to receive the flu vaccine. This will reduce the number of people who become infected with the flu, therefore enabling the NHS to concentrate on treating those with coronavirus. Also, the flu and coronavirus share many symptoms so reducing the number of people with the flu can make it easier to diagnose coronavirus. It is safe for those undergoing cancer treatment to have the flu vaccine as it doesn’t contain live flu virus. It is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk, including those over the age of 65 and those on certain medical treatments.

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