Below is some information about coronavirus (COVID-19) and COVID-19 vaccinations for people who have, or have had, prostate cancer and their loved ones, and for people who are worried they may have prostate cancer. This information aims to answer some of the questions you may have.
As always, it’s important to follow the advice of your doctor, nurse or other people in your medical team. You can also contact our Specialist Nurses for information and support.
For the latest information about coronavirus, including symptoms, what to do if you think you have coronavirus, and ways to reduce your risk of catching or spreading it, visit the relevant government website for England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
I’m worried about prostate cancer – can I see a GP?
Yes – your GP surgery is open and it’s important to contact them if you have any unusual symptoms or are worried about your risk of prostate cancer. If you’ve noticed changes in the way you urinate (wee), this is likely to be caused by a non-cancerous problem, rather than prostate cancer. But it’s important to get any symptoms checked out, so that your GP can help find out what is causing them.
Your GP may offer you a phone or video appointment to discuss your concerns. Then they might ask you to book another appointment if they want to see you in person. At this appointment, if your GP thinks you may have prostate cancer or a prostate problem, they may do a digital rectal examination (DRE) and a urine test to rule out infection. They may also offer you a PSA blood test and discuss its pros and cons.
Find out more information about these tests.
If you do struggle to get an appointment, contact our Specialist Nurses. They can listen to your concerns and help you prepare to speak to your GP surgery.
How do I make the most of my phone appointments?
Since the pandemic began, you may have started having telephone or video appointments with your GP, hospital doctor or specialist nurse.
When you’re talking to your doctor or nurse, you might find it difficult to take everything in. It can be particularly difficult having these discussions over the phone, rather than in-person with a health professional.
You may have a lot of questions, such as how coronavirus could affect your diagnosis, treatment or monitoring. You may also feel anxious about the future and how having prostate cancer will affect your life and your loved ones. It’s completely normal to feel like this. Everyone reacts differently when they have prostate cancer – there’s no right or wrong way.
It may help to think about some of the questions you want to ask your doctor or nurse. Write down your questions, as well as any concerns, thoughts or feelings, so that you remember to discuss them. You might find writing in a diary or a journal helpful.
If you’re planning a phone or video appointment, remember that calls from your GP surgery or hospital may come from a withheld number, or you may not recognise the number. It may be worth answering any calls from withheld numbers or numbers you don't recognise at this time; in case your doctor or nurse is trying to contact you.
When your doctor or nurse calls, find a quiet or private room in your home. You may want to put the phone on speakerphone so that your partner or a family member can also listen to the call. If your loved one doesn’t live with you, you could ask if it’s possible to include them in the phone call as well.
It can also help to write down or record what’s said to help you remember or to listen again in your own time. You have the right to record what is said because it’s your personal data, but you should always let your doctor or nurse know that you are recording the conversation.
It might also help to keep a note of the names and contact details of the health professionals you speak to. This will help you remember who is involved in your care, and who to contact if you have any questions.
Make sure you take all the time you need to ask the questions you want. Just because you’re speaking on the phone doesn’t mean you have to rush the conversation. Your doctor or nurse will want to be sure you have all the information you need.
Will I have my cancer treatment as planned?
The NHS is working hard to continue providing essential and urgent cancer treatments. Across the UK, hospitals have made changes to ensure that people with cancer can be treated in places that are likely to be free from coronavirus.
If your doctor does need to delay or change your treatment at all, they will talk to you first to make sure you understand your options and why this is happening.
Some of your appointments and check-ups may happen over the phone so that you don’t have to go into the hospital or GP surgery as often. If you’re not sure whether to go to any planned appointments, contact your doctor or nurse to check.
I’m worried about going back to work after treatment – what support is there?
UK governments are no longer asking people to work from when possible and have recommended a gradual return to work. If you’re worried about going back to work, you might want to take some of the following steps.
- Talk to your employer about the steps they’re taking to keep you safe. There are different guidelines about this in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
- If you still have concerns, ask your employer if you can move into a different role or change your working patterns, so that you can work from home for longer.
- If you struggle to find a solution, contact Citizens Advice or Acas for advice.
- You may also find Macmillan's information on work and cancer helpful. They talk about how cancer may affect you at work and also answer some common questions.
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for men with prostate cancer?
There are currently four coronavirus vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK – the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, and the Janssen vaccine which is given as a single dose. Clinical studies involving tens of thousands of people have shown that all vaccines are safe for the overwhelming majority of people.
A small number of people with a history of serious allergies have had a severe reaction, called ‘anaphylaxis’, immediately after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Anaphylaxis can be a rare side effect of any vaccine, and all health professionals who give vaccines have been trained to treat it. However, because of this risk, these vaccines may not be suitable for people with a history of anaphylaxis caused by a food or medicine allergy.
If you’ve had a severe allergic reaction in the past, it’s very important to discuss this with your GP before having a COVID-19 vaccine.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for men having chemotherapy?
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine do not contain a live virus, so you can’t catch COVID-19 from these vaccines. They are safe for men having treatment for prostate cancer, including chemotherapy.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines are made by changing different viruses that are both harmless in humans. The viruses have been changed so that they can't multiply inside people. This means they can't cause illness and are safe for people having treatments that weaken the immune system, such as chemotherapy.
However, you should still talk to your medical team about whether to have the vaccine if you’re having chemotherapy.
Will it work if I’m having chemotherapy?
We don’t yet know how well the vaccines work in people with a weak immune system, including men having chemotherapy to treat prostate cancer. This is because long term data on the effectiveness of these vaccines in people having chemotherapy or other medicines that weaken the immune system is unavailable.
Some early studies suggest these vaccines may not give cancer patients as much protection against coronavirus as they do in healthy people. This includes people with cancer who aren't having chemotherapy.
But it's important to remember that research is happening continuously to improve our understanding of how effective these vaccines are for people with cancer. Even if the vaccine doesn’t give full protection in some people, it may still be better than not having it at all.
Should I have the COVID-19 vaccine?
This is a personal decision, and only you can decide whether to have the vaccine. But it is the best way to protect yourself against severe COVID-19 illness.
There is a lot of information on the internet about vaccines and it’s hard to know which information to trust. You can find the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 vaccines on the NHS website.
It may help to talk to your family or friends if you’re not sure what to do. Your doctor or nurse can also talk to you about the vaccine and help you decide what’s right for you.
I’ve already had a flu jab – do I still need the COVID-19 vaccine?
The flu jab doesn’t protect against coronavirus. To protect yourself against the flu and coronavirus, you need to have both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine.
Do I still need to be careful after my COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. You should continue to follow government guidance and the advice of your medical team, even after you’ve had the vaccine.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, we don’t know for certain how well the vaccines work in people with a weak immune system (for example, men having chemotherapy to treat prostate cancer).
We also don’t fully understand whether the vaccines stop people carrying and passing on the virus to other people. So it’s important to continue following government guidance, even after you’ve had the vaccine.
Where can I get further support and information?
Remember, there’s always someone you can talk to for information and support. You could contact our Specialist Nurses on 0800 074 8383, or chat to them online. They can help if you’re confused by anything you’re told in your appointments. They can also help you understand your diagnosis and treatment options. You can ask them questions and talk through any concerns or worries you may have.
Many prostate cancer support groups are holding meetings in person and online at the moment. You may want to look up your nearest support group and ask them about this. They should be able to help if you’re not sure how online meetings work.
Last updated: April 2023