Contact your treatment team immediately if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or are currently experiencing any of the following infection symptoms:
- Sore throat.
- Shortness of breath.
Where possible, obtain advice over the phone rather than attending in person to lower your risk of exposure and to reduce the risk of exposing others.
Undergoing cancer treatment
If you or someone you're caring for is currently undergoing treatment, some practical ways to limit the risk of exposure include:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or if not immediately available use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. It's a good idea to carry this with you. It is especially important to wash your hands before eating or drinking.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as this can transfer the virus and increase the risk of infection.
- Avoid contact with those who are sick or unwell or have been exposed to the virus or may be at higher risk due to recent travel to a high-risk country.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (tables, benches, light switches, doorknobs, sinks, toilets, remotes, mobile phones or eating surfaces). Wear gloves (disposable if possible). Clean obvious debris with soap and water. Clean with a 70% alcohol solution or a mix of 4 teaspoons of bleach per litre of water.
- Limit food handling and sharing food with others.
- Stay at home and avoid non-essential travel and public transport if you can. If you have to go out, avoid crowds and crowded areas. This is especially important if you are currently having chemotherapy or are post treatments such as a bone marrow transplant.
- Maintain a 1.5 metre physical distance between yourself and others and avoid social habits such as kissing, hugging or handshakes.
- Talk to your doctor or member of your treatment team about the times in your treatment when you may be at the highest risk of infection so you can plan your activities accordingly. (Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to boosting the immune system beyond adhering to a healthy lifestyle.)
- Call your treatment team to see if you can do some of your consultations remotely via phone, WhatsApp, Skype or FaceTime.
- If you're a smoker, you should stop smoking.
- Buy more goods and services online to limit your shop visits.
- Increase the amount of fresh air by opening your windows and adjusting the air conditioning.
- Hold meetings via video conferencing or phone call if possible.
Medication and essential supplies
If you take prescription or over-the-counter medication, make sure you have enough at home or in a safe place that you can access. A one-month supply is ideal. Additionally, vulnerable patients can now access free delivery of prescription medicine to their home through the Federal Government’s COVID-19 National Health Plan - Home Medicines Service. Contact your pharmacy to find out more. If you experience difficulty obtaining medicines due to increased demand or supply issues, contact your doctor or cancer centre/clinic; they may be able to suggest alternatives.
There are also services now available to assist with priority home delivery of groceries for vulnerable members of our community. Apply for priority delivery online with Woolworths and Coles. Alternatively, Australia Post is delivering essential supplies to people faster through the Woolworths Basics Box and the Coles Community Box.
The Victorian Government has recently introduced emergency relief packages for people in mandatory self-isolation, who have little or no food, and no network of family and friends to support them. For more information about eligibility call the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398 or visit the Victorian Government website.
For family, friends and carers
If you've had contact with a person who has COVID-19 or is at an increased risk of exposure, avoid any contact with anyone who is receiving cancer treatment.
Talk to your health care provider about receiving the influenza vaccination as early in the flu season as possible to avoid passing on other infections and increasing the risk that you or your family member or friend will need healthcare.
Maintaining friendships and relationships can be especially difficult if you need to distance yourself from others to reduce your risk of infection. Friends and family play an important role in managing your wellbeing during a difficult and anxious time. Here are some tips for keeping in contact with friends and family:
- If face-to-face contact is not possible, try to use video calling tools such as WhatsApp, FaceTime or Skype to communicate.
- Use group chat tools such as Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp to keep in touch with many people at once.
- Our online community is a place where you can talk to other people affected by cancer who might be in a similar situation to you.
- Utilise our telephone support programs, either group or one-to-one phone support from someone who knows what it's like to have cancer. You can arrange this by calling 131120.
- Call friends and family as often as possible and let them know how you're feeling so they can offer the support you need.
- If you don't have access to any of the above, think about whether there are other ways to stay connected while maintaining a social distance. Try talking to a neighbour over the fence.
If you are feeling anxious, have questions or need support, you can talk to our nurses during business hours on 13 11 20. Our cancer nurses can provide emotional support as well as practical tips for minimising the risk of infection during this time.
Knowledge about COVID-19 is changing rapidly, as are the public health messages that keep you safe. Keep checking the Australian Government's website for updated information.