Looking after your physical and emotional health during COVID-19 is really important, especially if you are affected by cancer.
If you are feeling anxious, have questions or need support, talk to our cancer nurses on 13 11 20. They can provide emotional support, practical tips for minimising the risk of infection during this time, and connections to local services to help you manage cancer and COVID-19.
Limiting exposure during treatment
If you or someone you're caring for is currently undergoing cancer treatment, there are some practical ways you can limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Practical tips for limiting COVID-19 exposure
- 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's 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, have been exposed to COVID-19, or may be at higher risk.
- 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 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.
- Call your treatment team to see if you can do some of your consultations remotely via telehealth.
- If you're a smoker, you should consider quitting.
- 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 wherever possible.
Contact your treatment team immediately if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or are currently experiencing infection symptoms including a fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath.
Where possible, obtain advice over the phone from your doctor rather than attending in person to lower your risk of exposure, and to reduce the risk of exposing others. In an emergency, call Triple Zero 000.
Contact our cancer nurses
Accessing 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, as 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.
The Victorian Government has 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 Victorian coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.
Maintaining 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.
Tips for keeping in contact with loved ones
- 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 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.
- Learn about our telephone support programs and connect with someone who knows what it's like to have cancer, by calling 13 11 20.
- Call friends and family as often as possible and let them know how you're feeling so they can offer the support you need.
- Think about whether there are other ways to stay connected while maintaining a social distance, such as talking to a neighbour over the fence.
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.