Coronavirus (Covid-19) Advice

The following is information and advice on the coronavirus for people with cancer, including: symptoms, your risk if you have cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) and what you can do. This has been updated to include the government’s “Alert and Safe” guidance.

Update: 18 May, 2020
The Government is now advising everyone as follows:

  • Stay alert
  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Work from home if you can
  • Limit contact with other people
  • Keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • Wash your hands regularly

Do not leave home if you or anyone in household has symptoms of coronavirus.

Please follow the links below for further guidance on:

You can also find further Government information to help at this time, including on employment, financial support, school closures and childcare, here:

The NHS has now directly contacted all those considered at high risk, including those receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

There is further information for those who have been advised to shield in the Q&A document below, and also on the government’s website here:

About coronavirus

Coronavirus is a group of viruses that includes cold, flu and more serious respiratory illnesses such as SARS. This disease is a new corona virus, never seen before in humans called Covid-19.

Because this type of coronavirus has not been seen before, we currently lack vaccinations to prevent the disease or a cure. At present, we can only give treatments to manage the symptoms of the disease. Coronavirus has so far mainly affected adults and is more dangerous for older people, those with long term conditions or a compromised immune system.


The most common symptoms of coronavirus include a fever (raised temperature), a new continuous cough, and shortness of breath. For most people the virus is mild, however, some people will develop complications such as pneumonia and a small number of people will become seriously ill.

Am I more at risk if I have cholangiocarcinoma or have had it in the past?

It is too soon to know for certain how much greater the risk of infection is for people living with cholangiocarcinoma or who have had the disease in the past. However, it possible that your risk of coronavirus will be elevated, as will the risk of more severe symptoms.

If you are currently receiving treatment for cholangiocarcinoma such as surgery or chemotherapy, this may weaken your immune system and increase your chances of infection. It may also make it harder for your body to fight disease.

How can I reduce my risk/what can I do?

Please refer to the following government advice on the following:

The NHS recommends the following to protect yourself and to minimise the spread of coronavirus:

  • Regularly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Use hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues straight into the bin and wash your hands afterwards
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell, or have coronavirus symptoms
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Use phone, online services, or apps to contact your GP surgery or other NHS services

Social Distancing

The government has now set out the first part of its plan to return to normal life:

  • People and employers should stay safe in public spaces and workplaces by following “COVID-19 secure” guidelines. This should enable more people to go back to work, where they cannot work from home, and encourage more vulnerable children and the children of critical workers to go to school or childcare as already permitted
  • You should stay alert when you leave home: washing your hands regularly, maintaining social distancing, and ensuring you do not gather in groups of more than two, except with members of your household or for other specific exceptions set out in law
  • You must continue to stay home except for a limited set of reasons but – in line with scientific advice – can take part in more outdoor activities

See the government’s guidance on ‘Staying safe outside your home

If you think that you might have coronavirus, have been in close contact with someone with the condition or have returned from a country or area that is high risk, it is important to get in touch with your care team for advice, or contact NHS 111, make sure you tell the call handler about your cholangiocarcinoma and explain your concerns.

Will coronavirus affect my cancer treatment?

Clinicians will always do their utmost to prioritise treatment for those most in need and in consultation with patients.

Most hospitals have started to use more telephone consultations as a way of helping people to avoid long waits in clinics and for treatment. You may be called to arrange your treatments in this way, and planned treatments may need to be moved to help with running a smooth service.

Your clinical team are best placed to talk with you about the effect on your treatment and appointments. They will work with you to determine the best course of action in each individual situation. If you have any concerns or questions about your treatment, please speak to your clinical team.

For further information re cancer treatments, see the Q&A document below.

Clinical Trials

The NIHR has issued guidance on clinical trials, recognising the need to prioritise research on COVID-19 itself, and that many clinical research teams will be asked to redeploy to help with providing patient care.

“Given the scale of the COVID-19 challenge, we are encouraging clinical and academic health and care professionals funded by NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) who are working on topics other than COVID-19 to prioritise frontline care where requested to do so by their employing organisations. This means that many research studies funded by NIHR or supported by NIHR (via the Clinical Research Network and other NIHR infrastructure) may need to be paused.  In addition, the NIHR Clinical Research Network is pausing the site set up of any new or ongoing studies at NHS and social care sites that are not nationally prioritised COVID-19 studies.”

People already having cancer treatment as part of clinical trials may be able to continue their treatment if it is safe to do so, but hospitals are trying to reduce the number of times patients attend for tests, so the arrangements for people on trials may be changed for safety reasons.

Some trials have stopped recruiting new patients. Where trials can continue they are being done so with reduced patient contact, for example by delivering medication directly to patients and following up by telephone or video rather than face to face appointments.

You should contact your clinical team with questions about your individual treatment, including any trials you are taking part in.



For more advice on coronavirus when you have cancer click here
(This advice was updated 18 May 2020)


For updated information on the coronavirus, please refer to:

Advice on GP online service:
Government information on employment, financial support, school closures and childcare: click here
Advice for the public from the WHO: click here
PHE (Public Heath England) Travel Guidelines: click here

For information on the government’s funeral restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, click here

May 2020