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Radiotherapy and Coronavirus Risk - Conflicting advices


Re: Radiotherapy and Coronavirus Risk - Conflicting advices

Hi Altaira28


Thanks for posting here.


Many people are wondering if a diagnosis of breast cancer means they are more at risk of getting the coronavirus (COVID-19) as a consequence of their treatment for breast cancer, so it’s understandable you wish to seek clarity on your situation.


As far as we know, the majority of people who have had breast cancer will not be at any higher risk and so can follow the advice given for the rest of the population. This includes those on hormone therapy or who have had radiotherapy to the breast and/or lymph nodes as part of their treatment.


Those who may be at higher risk include anyone with low immunity, such as people currently having chemotherapy or people who have had chemotherapy in the last three months. 


We’ve had a number of people contact us to ask if having breast radiotherapy puts them in a higher risk group.


It’s thought that people having intensive (radical) radiotherapy for lung cancer are likely to be at higher risk because of damage to their lungs.  Where radiotherapy is given for cancers such as leukaemia, these people are at a much higher risk, since this is given to the whole body to suppress the immune system as part of their treatment.


We are aware that the NHS are having to produce specialty guidance for patient management over the coming weeks, including for those with cancer.


The unexpected and totally unprecedented situation we find ourselves in may mean planning treatment differently for some and is the type of decision that individual patients and their doctors may need to consider together for their own situation, which will understandably cause anxiety.


The risks and benefits of treatments are always considered for all patients, and at this time the risk of bringing patients into hospital to receive treatment is now also vital to consider.  Trusts will be looking to find the best local solutions to continue the management cancer services and do the best possible for all patients while protecting resources for the response to coronavirus.


Your treatment team will be able to talk with you about the plans for your treatment and any possible impact on your planned radiotherapy.  Any hormone therapy, an important part of treatment which treats the whole body, should not be affected.


Our webpage has more general Advice on Coronavirus for people with cancer as well as some frequently asked questions from others who have had a diagnosis of breast cancer. 


The following advice from the NHS  will help protect you and others. If you are concerned, contact your treatment team or the coronavirus service.


At such an anxious time for many, do remember you can call our Helpline if you would like to talk this through or have any further questions. Your call will be confidential and the number is free from UK landlines and all mobile networks.


The number is 0808 800 6000 (Text relay prefix 18001).


Currently our opening hours are Monday to Friday 10am to 3pm, and we are closed on Saturdays.


Out of hours you can leave a message and we will call you back when we next open.


Best wishes




Breast Cancer Now Nurse


Please read the Ask Our Nurses disclaimer  Full details on how we collect and use your data can be found in our Privacy Policy


This thread will now be closed from further replies. If you have any additional questions or would like to provide feedback, please start a new thread.


Re: Radiotherapy and Coronavirus Risk - Conflicting advices

Hi Altaira28  


Thanks for posting your question.


We hope to be able to respond to you on Monday.


Our Helpline is open from 10am on Monday if you would like to talk things through. 


If you do phone our Helpline please let us know that you have asked a question on our forum so that we know your query has been answered. Thank you


With best wishes.




Ask Our Nurses Co-ordinator


Please read the Ask Our Nurses disclaimer  Full details on how we collect and use your data can be found in our Privacy Policy



Radiotherapy and Coronavirus Risk - Conflicting advices

I was diagnosed with Grade 3, Stage 2 IDC in January and had a WLE in early Feb. I then had the Oncotype DX test, which with a result of 24 was borderline. Having discussed this with the oncologist I have agreed that, in light of the current coronavirus situation, chemotherapy is probably not a sensible route. So my next steps will be hormone therapy and should be radiotherapy.


I have an appointment scheduled with consultant at beginning of April to discuss and, hopefully, arrange the radiotherapy. However I am really concerned to have come across a NHS clinical guidance dated 17 march ( https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2020/03/Specialty-guide_Cancer-an...) that suggests patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment are in the highest risk category from coronavirus. This seems to contradict what is being published on cancer support and other government websites. Even more worryingly it suggests that some primary breast cancer patients undergoing endocrine therapy will be categorised as the lowest priority [priority 5) for receiving radiotherapy.


Is there any clarity over this please? I am really worried that I may not have the radiotherapy I need. I know prompt radiotherapy makes a significant difference to prevent a recurrence. And if I do have radiotherapy I need to understand what my additional coronavirus risks are.


many thanks