Coronavirus update for people with a brain tumour: treatment, vaccinations, shielding
‘People should continue to shield after they have been vaccinated: we do not know whether vaccination can prevent transmission.” Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England
Yesterday we had the NHS updates for the current situation in England; we’re really lucky to have the ear of Cally Palmer and her team. Cally is the NHS England’s National Cancer Director. These meetings are a valuable source of information, although it does feel a little Ground Hog Day. It is – but it is different from April 2020.
What is the current state of play?
Most importantly – the NHS is open for cancer patients. This means that if you have an appointment you should plan on attending it. Hospitals are well prepared for managing if we are attending face to face appointments. If anything, this is not new ground for them – they have been working in this space for nearly a year now.
As ever, it is not one size fits all. Bottom line? There isn’t significant disruption for people living with cancer. A few hospitals are severely impacted by this new COVID variant. These hospitals are in London and the east. Others are busy but managing, and some are not impacted at all. It would be misguided of us to give a blanket overview, so contact your support specialist – they understand the picture on the ground. The other message we’d add is do not be seduced by what you hear on the media; it isn’t all negative; most cancer services are being delivered as normal.
We’ve broken down the government’s latest advice to patients that are clinically extremely vulnerable. Read it here.
Surgery is being prioritised in hospitals that are struggling. Phase 1 saw the creation of the cancer surgical hubs – these are being reinstated. The purpose of the surgical hubs is to ensure the continuity of urgent and essential cancer surgery. These hubs are COVID safe.
Patients are being prioritised to make sure that those who need surgery have it. Those that need immediate life-saving intervention and those who need urgent surgery will be top of the list. Any patients whose surgery can be safely delayed MAY find that their surgery is delayed, but if this happens to you then you should be given a new date. Some of this rescheduling is unavoidable. If you are struggling with the uncertainty around this then please speak with us. We can help.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments are being delivered and are unaffected – this is because they are delivered by a specialised workforce that isn’t being redeployed to COVID patients.
If you are invited to have the vaccine, you should have it; the timing is not critical. It is a case of risk v benefit, so it is more important that you are vaccinated and people with brain tumours have as good as a response as people who don’t have cancer. The case is different with people who are living with blood cancers, such as leukaemia. These people may have a slightly reduced immune response.
A word on diagnostics. Screening for cancer is continuing and there are no reports of delays with diagnostic pathways. But we know that diagnosing a brain tumour is complicated. If you have any concerns contact your GP or talk with us. You may find this information useful.