I've just been told I have blood cancer
Just diagnosed: infection risk and coronavirus
If you have a blood cancer diagnosis, you may have a higher risk of getting an infection and becoming more ill from it than normal. It's always important to try to lower this risk – even more so now, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Blood cancer and your risk of infection
Blood cancer often affects your immune system – the network of blood cells and organs that protect your body from infections caused by bugs such as bacteria and viruses. If your immune system is weakened, you’ll be more likely to pick up infections and your body will find it harder to fight them off.
Some treatments for blood cancer (especially chemotherapy) temporarily weaken the immune system even further.
It's very important to take care of yourself and try to avoid infections as best you can. Speak to your healthcare team about this or contact our Support Services Team on 0808 2080 888 or [email protected] for more information and to talk about your concerns.
Symptoms of infection
If you think you have symptoms of an infection, you should contact your healthcare team or GP straight away. Symptoms include:
- fever (a temperature above 37.5°C)
- shivering and sweating
- achy flu-like symptoms
- sore throat and cough
- frequent watery poos (diarrhoea)
- generally not feeling well.
There are other symptoms too. Ask your healthcare team about the symptoms of infection and what to look out for.
How to help prevent infection
- clean your hands frequently
- avoid touching your face with your hands
- make sure your food is stored and cooked properly (for advice, see the Food Standards Agency)
- avoid people who have infections or are sick
- avoid crowded places like public transport, festivals and shopping centres.
You may be offered drugs or vaccinations which can stop you getting infections like flu or pneumonia (a serious chest infection). Ask your healthcare team for advice on managing your risk of infection. You can order a free fact sheet or download a PDF on 'Understanding infection' from our online shop.
Am I at risk from coronavirus?
Because blood cancer affects the immune system, many people are considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ if they’re diagnosed with it, whether or not they’re having treatment. We don’t know yet whether people with blood cancer are more likely to get coronavirus, but we do know that when they do, they have a higher chance of getting seriously ill from it.
You may find it useful to read our information on understanding your level of risk. But as everyone’s situation is different, you should always speak to your healthcare team to get personal advice on what you can do to protect yourself from coronavirus, and other infections.
We have more information about blood cancer and the coronavirus pandemic in our coronavirus information hub.
If you have symptoms which could be coronavirus, speak to your healthcare team at the hospital, or your GP
The main symptoms of coronavirus are:
- a cough
- a high temperature
- shortness of breath
- changes to your sense of smell or taste.
The advice to people with blood cancer is to contact your healthcare team straight away to seek urgent advice. This is in case you need to go into hospital, as coronavirus is more risky for you.
If you are currently having chemotherapy, contact your chemotherapy support line urgently.
Worried about anything or have questions?
If you have any questions, worries, or just need someone to talk to, please don't hesitate to contact our Support Services Team via phone or email.
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