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Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 relating to cancer

Updated Wednesday, 6 May 2020
Discover how COVID-19 will impact new cancer treatments and ongoing clinical trials, access to drugs and smokers.

How will COVID-19 affect the development of new cancer treatments and ongoing clinical trials?

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic some cancer clinical trials may stop recruiting new patients for now. This is because medical teams will be redirected to looking after COVID-19 patients and research teams will be refocused to working on COVID-19 prevention and treatment.

However, if someone is in a clinical trial, their healthcare team will continue to support and monitor them. If cancer patients have any concerns or questions about the clinical trial they are enrolled in, they are advised to speak to their healthcare team for further clarification.

Will there be problems accessing cancer drugs?

There are no current shortages of drugs used to treat cancer patients. Both government and the NHS are working to plan and prevent any delay in the production and distribution of medicines.

How does COVID-19 affect smokers?

Smoking tobacco damages the lungs and airways, causing a range of respiratory problems. COVID-19 also damages the respiratory system. Hence, it is highly likely that smokers are at greater risk of more severe COVID-19 symptoms. People regularly in the same environment as smokers also develop lung problems. Especially in children and the elderly, making these ‘second-hand’ smokers also at risk of more severe COVID-19 symptoms.

There are several independent studies evaluating the proportion of patients with severe complications of COVID-19 that are either current smokers or former smokers. A recent retrospective analysis using data from different studies, found that patients with COVID-19 who were current smokers had ~2 fold increased risk of developing severe symptoms, but more research is needed to confirm this relationship.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterised by chronic inflammation of the lung airways and destruction of lung tissues. Smoking is one of the greatest risk factors for developing COPD. COPD was found to increase the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms by ~4 fold


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