16 March 2020

The charity Bloodwise has issued guidance about the coronavirus COVID-19 aimed at blood cancer patients, setting out those at greatest risk and what measures should be taken.

Many haematology patients who have blood cancers suffer from suppressed immune systems. The World Health Organisation recently declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, urging countries to take all possible steps to limit the spread of the virus.

Bloodwise advises that healthcare professionals can help reduce the risk to blood cancer patients may be able to conduct appointments remotely if possible, such as over the telephone or a video call. This will help avoid bringing patients to crowded clinics during the outbreak.This advice includes that at-risk patients and their carers should avoid crowded places. They should distance themselves from places where there might be other people with the virus, the charity says.

Patients do not need to isolate themselves at home – as activities such as walking in a park should not pose a risk, according to chief executive Gemma Peters.

She warns that hospitals are places where patients are at greatest risk. Phone and video appointments should be used where possible – and blood tests can be scheduled away from hospital sites.

Gemma Peters says that patients who need to go to hospital for treatment should attend – and the teams caring for them will take every possible precaution.

She said: “Things with blood cancer are a little bit different as more people are likely to be immunosuppressed than in other kinds of cancer.”

People with weakened immune systems who are at increased risk of complications from coronavirus include:

  • People having chemotherapy, or who’ve had chemotherapy in the last 3 months;
  • People having immunotherapy or other antibody treatments for cancer;
  • People having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors;
  • People who’ve had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs; and
  • People with some types of blood cancer which affect the immune system, such as chronic leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma, even if no treatment is being given.