Information about Early Treatments for Covid-19 for Cancer Patients who Test Positive
This information applies to cancer patients who have been contacted directly only
The NHS is now able to offer some patients at very high risk from Covid-19 the opportunity to consider some new treatments to help reduce the risk of the virus causing serious disease or getting bad enough to need admission to hospital. If you have been contacted by us and directed to this information you might be in one of these very high risk groups.
The main new treatment is an artificial antibody against the virus to help your immune system fight the infection. These treatments can be considered for patients who have tested positive (via a PCR swab, not just the lateral flow test) for coronavirus and meet certain criteria. It is important to note that these treatments must be given fairly soon (within 5 days) after you start to show symptoms to be effective.
The NHS is contacting patients who may be in one of these very high risk groups to make sure they are aware of these new treatments. You may have already received a letter or text message about this. Some patients may be contacted even though they may not be in a very high risk group now (for example if they had cancer treatment several years ago) but also some may not be contacted when they are in one of these groups (for example if you have had treatment recently, or if the diagnosis has not been put on your GP records).
There is more information on these treatments at www.nhs.uk/CoronavirusTreatments.
- Have a PCR test kit ready at home (contact 119 if you have not received a kit within 5 working days).
- Take a PCR test if you get coronavirus symptoms (if you don’t have a test kit at home you can book a test via https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or by calling 119.
- If the PCR test confirms that you have coronavirus: the NHS will call you to tell you how you might get a treatment. If you are not contacted by the NHS within 24 hours of your test result please contact your GP (or 111) as soon as possible.
These treatments may be available to patients that meet all these criteria:
- You have symptoms of Covid-19 (if you have no symptoms then treatment is not needed)
- Your symptoms have been present for 5 days or less.
- Your positive PCR test was done within the last 5 days.
- Your symptoms have not already started to improve on their own.
- You are in one of the very high risk groups.
These treatments are very new and advice is changing on a regular basis – it is always best to check if you are unsure.
Important Note: New Covid-19 treatments can help you if you are ill, but vaccination is still the best protection for you and your loved ones. If you are on chemotherapy, immunosuppressant medications or have other problems with your immune system then vaccines may not work as well. These new treatments can help boost your protection from serious disease if you do get the infection. If you have not had the vaccine then it is even more important to see if you meet the criteria for these new treatments.
Symptoms of Covid-19
We are now seeing a wider range of symptoms from Covid-19 than the main three early on in the pandemic (a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste), These other symptoms can be similar to a cold/flu-like illness and can include: feeling feverish, chills, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, red or watery eyes, body aches, loss of taste or smell, fatigue, loss of appetite, confusion, dizziness, pressure or tight chest, chest pain, stomach ache, rash, sneezing, sputum or phlegm, runny nose). It is really important that you don’t ignore any of these symptoms – you should get a test as soon as possible so that you can be considered for the new treatments if you do test positive.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ's and information regarding early treatments for cancer patients with a positive PCR - Covid-19
What is the treatment?
The treatment is an antibody that aims to neutralise the virus in your body and reduces the risk of severe infection.
How is the treatment given?
It will either be a short infusion (via a drip) or a course of tablets. It will not require admission. Indeed the intention is to reduce the risk of needing hospitalisation in the future.
Are the medicines safe in cancer patients? Are there drug interactions?
The medicines have been studied in clinical trials and are safe in cancer patients. We think it is very unlikely that dose adjustments will be needed because of your existing treatments. If you are recommended for one of these treatments then further, detailed, information will be given at the time.
I didn't need to "shield" from COVID, but I have been included in this "higher risk group". Why?
It is possible your doctors think your Covid-related risks have changed from when “shielding” was recommended in 2020. However our understanding of Covid-19 is also better than it was before. We also have more treatment options. We believe this new treatment strategy could be of benefit to you, and so you are included in the group who would be offered it if they got Covid-19.
Where will the drugs be given?
This is yet to be finalised, but you will be told when you are contacted after any positive test. It may also depend on where you live.
How will I know if I need this treatment for my symptoms?
The treatment is only needed for patients with confirmed (PCR positive) Covid-19, and it is intended to be given early in the illness. It is therefore important that you get a prompt PCR test if you have possible Covid-19 symptoms.
Will cancer staff be involved in delivering the treatment?
It is expected the service will be run centrally but cancer clinical staff may be consulted, when people attend. You can be confident in the decision making process, even if you do not see a cancer doctor when you have your treatment.
If I test positive, and I am invited for one of these treatments, should I double check with my cancer specialist before going?
No. Treatment windows are short. Please do not risk delays by seeking our input first. If needed, the team treating you can ask for our input.
If I test positive, and I am invited for one of these treatments, do I need to tell the cancer team anyway?
There is no need to contact the cancer team directly unless you have other healthcare appointments soon. If you do have a an appointment coming up, it is very important you make contact with that team as soon as you have your positive Covid-PCR test result - alternative arrangements may need to be made for those other appointments.
If I test positive, and I am not contacted within 24 hours, what should I do
This is not a likely scenario, but if you are not contacted within 24 hours you are advised to phone your GP Practice (in hours) or 111 (out of hours) for an urgent referral to a Covid-19 Medicines Delivery Unit (CMDU).