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COVID-19 and Cancer - Information for Patients

Frequently asked questions about COVID-19

Page updated: February 17, 2021


The COVID-19 pandemic changes often. We will update this page when we get new information. The best source of up-to-date information on COVID-19 in British Columbia is the BC Centre for Disease Control website

COVID-19 vaccine information

The COVID-19 vaccines are likely safe for people with cancer. 

 

Some people with cancer can become immunocompromised from their treatments. This means their immune system is not working as well as it should. Even for these people, the COVID-19 vaccines should be safe.

 

Right now, we do not know for sure if the vaccine will work as well as it should in people who are immunocompromised. The information we have from other vaccines tells us that the COVID-19 vaccine should still help these people.

 

As we get more information about the vaccines, we will share it with you.


Please visit the BC Center for Disease Control COVID-19 Vaccine webpage for more information.

The B.C. Provincial Government has guidelines about who should get the vaccine and when they can get it.  

 

We expect that "people who are clinically extremely vulnerable" will start getting vaccines in phase 3. This includes some people with certain cancers and some people having cancer treatment. This phase is scheduled to start in April.


Please speak with your oncologist about your situation and when you might be able to get the vaccine.

 

Remember that this plan may change. The amount of vaccine B.C. gets over the next couple of months may change the plan. 

 

Right now, B.C. does not have a lot of vaccine. We have to give it to the people who are most at risk of getting COVID-19 or dying from COVID-19. We also have to give it to the people who care for those who are most at risk. This includes health care workers and people who work in long-term care homes.

 

As B.C. gets more vaccines, more people will be vaccinated. This will happen over the next several months.

 

If you want more information, please visit the Government of B.C. website.

When companies were testing the vaccines, immunocompromised cancer patients were usually not included in the studies. This is why we do not have information about how the vaccine works in cancer patients.

 

There is a Canadian clinical trial testing one of the vaccines in people who are having cancer treatment. This trial is only open to patients in Ontario and Quebec.

 

Right now, BC Cancer is not doing any research with cancer patients and the COVID-19 vaccines. If this changes, we will let you know.

 

If you have questions or concerns about the vaccines, please talk to your BC Cancer health care team. 

 

Visit the BC Centre for Disease Control website page on Vaccines for COVID-19 for more information.

Coming to your appointment: what you need to know

‎If you are feeling well, please go to your appointment. 


If you have cold or flu-like symptoms, such as cough, fever or shortness of breath, call your cancer centre. Your appointment may need to be rescheduled.


If you are self-isolating after travelling, please do not come to the cancer centre. Call the centre and speak to staff about any appointments you have. 

We may offer you a virtual appointment. Please follow instructions from your health care team.  

If you are a new patient and visiting a BC Cancer centre for the first time, you can bring one adult with you.

 

If you are having treatment or a follow-up appointment at a BC Cancer centre, you cannot bring someone with you. Please come by yourself.

 

If you need a support person at all of your appointments and treatments, please talk to your BC Cancer health care team.  

 

Thank you for helping us keep our patients and staff safe.

‎If you need transportation to get to your appointments, call your BC Cancer regional centre for help:

  • Abbotsford: 604-851-4710
  • Kelowna: 250-712-3900
  • Prince George: 250-645-7300
  • Surrey: 604-930-2098
  • Vancouver: 604-877-6000
  • Victoria: 250-519-5500

Right now, you do not have to pay for parking at BC Cancer Centres.  

If you are having a virtual appointment (also called a virtual health visit), please read our handout: 

How to prepare for your Virtual Health Visit

All patients and visitors must wear a medical mask in all areas of BC Cancer centres. 


We will give you a medical mask when you arrive. If you are wearing a non-medical mask (like a cotton mask), you will have to take it off and wear the medical mask.

Cancer treatments and care

To speak with one of our counsellors, please see our Patient & Family Counselling page for phone numbers and information.

 

We are offering many of our programs through Zoom.  Please visit our Support Programs page for more information. 

 

If you are experiencing anxiety, worry or stress for any reason we have online tools to help you. 


BC Cancer pharmacies may be able to mail your prescriptions to you. Please call your BC Cancer pharmacy to order your refills.

 

You do not need to get extra refills during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you order more than you need ("stockpiling"), other people may not get the medication they need. 


Your BC Cancer pharmacist will tell you how much medication you need. 


If you are feeling unwell and need a refill on your medication, please do not visit the pharmacy. Call the pharmacy and they will make sure you get your medication safely.

All in-person systemic therapy (chemotherapy) teaching sessions are cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Right now, sessions are only available online:

Watch the Introduction to Systemic Therapy video here.


All new systemic therapy patients should watch this video. It is very important to watch the entire video so that you are prepared for your treatment.

‎Visit the Request Patient Records page for information. Follow the steps on that page.

This document will help you start thinking about advance care planning.

 

Visit our Advance Care Planning page for more information.

 

Please speak to your family doctor, nurse practitioner or BC Cancer health care team about advance care planning.

If you have concerns at any time during your care, please speak with your oncologist. 

 

If you still have concerns after this, we support you in contacting the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) Patient Care Quality Office. You can speak to someone about your care experience.

 

Please visit the PHSA Patient Care Quality Office webpage for more information. 


Cancer screening programs

‎‎Many cancer screening services are being temporarily suspended at this time to assist in efforts to minimize COVID-19 transmission in healthy people and to allow the health system to focus resources on urgent and emergent care.

For more information please visit here

Cancer screening programs have started again.


For more information please visit our Screening Programs page.

COVID-19 and cancer: managing your risk

It is possible that cancer patients might have worse symptoms from COVID-19. This is because some treatments affect how well their immune system works.  

You should do your best to avoid getting COVID-19. This includes:


  • Wearing a mask when near other people, especially indoors.
  • Staying 2 metres (6 feet) from other people.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water (20 to 30 seconds each time).
  • Not touching your face.
  • Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
  • Staying home when sick.

The BC Centre for Disease Control has a full list of things you can do to stay healthy and help stop the spread of COVID-19. ‎

Read their prevention and risk page here.

If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, you should get a COVID-19 test.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • New or worsening cough
  • Shortness of breath (new or worsening)
  • Sore throat and painful swallowing
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Lose of sense of smell or taste
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Loss or appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you do not have any symptoms, you do not need a test. Your doctor or health care team may also decide if you need a test.

You can use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help you decide if you need a test. You can do this assessment for yourself or for someone else if they are not able to.


If you have any symptoms, contact your cancer care team. Tell them how you are feeling. Some of your symptoms may be a side effect of treatment. Your oncologist will know more.




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