8 June 2021
Below is some information about coronavirus (COVID-19) 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.
We also have lots of information about the COVID-19 vaccines for people with prostate cancer.
For the latest information about coronavirus for the general public, 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.
For tips for looking after your wellbeing during the pandemic, visit our Wellbeing and coronavirus page. Or if you're worried about the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, read our information on life after lockdown.
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. Depending on where you live, you may have a phone or video appointment to discuss your concerns. Your GP may then ask you to book another appointment if they want to see you in person.
Some GP surgeries have fewer appointments available than usual, because of the coronavirus vaccine roll-out. However, GPs are being asked to prioritise anyone who might have cancer, as well as patients who've already been diagnosed with cancer. So you shouldn’t have to wait very long for an appointment.
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.
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.
What will happen if my GP thinks I might have prostate cancer?
If your GP thinks you may have a prostate problem, they may offer you a PSA blood test at the GP surgery. Your GP surgery will have made changes to help prevent the spread of coronavirus – call them if you’re worried or want more information on this. If you have coronavirus symptoms or if test results show you have coronavirus, you’ll need to delay your PSA test while you follow the latest guidance on self-isolating at home.
Depending on your PSA level, the GP might suggest having another PSA test in the future to see if your PSA level changes. Or they may refer you to see a specialist at the hospital.
If you’re given a hospital appointment, you may be advised to follow the government's guidance on social distancing very carefully for 14 days before your appointment. This will make sure you don’t catch and spread coronavirus to other people at the hospital. The hospital will give you more information about this, as the advice varies from area to area.
I've had a letter saying I’m ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ – is this because I have prostate cancer?
Experts have identified a new group of people who may be at higher risk of catching and becoming seriously unwell with coronavirus.
People in this group have been added to the shielding list and sent a letter telling them about this. Everyone on the shielding list can book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.
If you’ve received this letter, you probably have a number of risk factors or health issues that, when put together, mean you could be at higher risk of catching or becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. But there's no evidence to suggest that prostate cancer itself puts you at greater risk.
I’m on chemotherapy and have a cough or high temperature – what should I do?
If you’re having chemotherapy, you should have a number to call at the hospital if you have any signs of an infection. Call this number if you’re worried you may have coronavirus or any other type of infection. Read about the possible signs of an infection and what to do.
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.
But some men and their doctors may still have to decide whether to delay or change their prostate cancer treatment. Your safety will always be a priority in these decisions, which could be for the following reasons.
- Some prostate cancer treatments increase your risk of getting infections, which could put you at risk of catching coronavirus. In this case, other treatments may be safer for you at this time.
- Some prostate cancer treatments involve regular hospital appointments or time on a hospital ward. In parts of the UK with higher levels of coronavirus, this could put you at risk of catching the virus. In this case, other treatments that don’t involve spending time at the hospital may be safer for you until the risk has reduced.
Prostate cancer often grows slowly, so for many men a delay or change to their treatment shouldn’t affect how well their treatment works in the long term. If tests show your cancer is more likely to grow quickly or spread, your doctor should make your treatment a priority so that you get the treatment you need without unnecessary delays.
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. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Your appointments and check-ups may happen over the phone so that you don’t have to go into the hospital or GP surgery. If you’re not sure whether to go to any planned appointments, contact your doctor or nurse to check.
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.
Will I be offered surgery?
You should be offered surgery for prostate cancer (radical prostatectomy), if your doctor thinks it is suitable for you. But you may have to wait a little longer than usual for your operation.
Your doctor may talk to you about having hormone therapy to control your cancer before your surgery. All types of radical prostatectomy (including robot-assisted keyhole surgery, keyhole surgery by hand, and open surgery) are still possible after being on hormone therapy.
Your doctor will talk to you to make sure you understand your options and help you decide what to do next. Most localised prostate cancer grows slowly. For many men with localised prostate cancer, having hormone therapy for a while first won’t affect how well the surgery works in the long term.
If tests show your cancer is more likely to grow quickly, your doctor should make your treatment a priority so that you get the treatment you need without unnecessary delays. Hospitals have made changes to ensure that people with cancer can be treated in places that are likely to be free from coronavirus. This means that your surgery may not happen at your usual hospital.
You will probably need to have a coronavirus test 2-3 days before your operation, to make sure you don’t have coronavirus. Once you’ve had the test, you’ll need to self-isolate until you go into hospital for your surgery. The hospital will give you more information about what you need to do, and for how long.
Your safety will always be a priority in decisions about your treatment and care, but speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Will I be offered radiotherapy?
Having external beam radiotherapy involves regular hospital appointments. In parts of the UK with higher levels of coronavirus, this could put you at risk of catching the virus. This means that other treatments that don’t involve spending time at the hospital may be safer for people in those areas until the risk has reduced.
If you’re having radiotherapy to treat localised or locally advanced prostate cancer, it’s normal to have hormone therapy for up to six months first. This helps to shrink the prostate and the cancer inside it, making the cancer easier to treat. Your hormone therapy should still be able to go ahead as usual.
If your doctor does need to delay or change your radiotherapy, they will talk to you about other treatments to help control your cancer – or relieve symptoms – until it’s safe for you to have radiotherapy. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Will I be offered chemotherapy?
Many men with advanced prostate cancer are offered chemotherapy at some point. Chemotherapy can increase your risk from catching infections, including coronavirus. This is because it can affect your immune system, which fights infections. Chemotherapy also involves regular hospital appointments, which could put you at risk of catching coronavirus during those hospital visits.
Many men are still being offered chemotherapy to treat their prostate cancer. Hospitals have made changes to ensure that people with cancer can be treated in places that are likely to be free from coronavirus. But your doctor may talk to you about other treatments to help control your cancer, instead of chemotherapy.
For example, if you’ve just been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, you may now be offered enzalutamide or abiraterone, which are types of hormone therapy. These medicines are usually only offered to men at a later stage in their treatment. But they’ve now been made available as a first treatment for advanced prostate cancer during the coronavirus outbreak. They are just as effective as chemotherapy for these men, but are less likely to affect your immune system.
Your safety will always be a priority in any discussions about your treatment.
I’m on hormone therapy – will it continue?
Standard hormone therapy treatments, including LHRH agonists, GnRH antagonists and anti-androgen tablets, won’t increase your risk of catching coronavirus, or of having more severe illness if you do catch coronavirus. This means it’s safe to continue having hormone therapy.
Your doctor may decide to change your hormone therapy so that you don’t have to visit your GP surgery or hospital as often. For example, if you usually have an injection every month, you may start having one every three or six months instead. This won’t affect how well your treatment works – three and six-monthly injections release the drug slowly over time and are just as effective as monthly injections.
If you’re worried about your hormone therapy being changed, speak to your doctor. They should be able to explain why they are changing it and reassure you that it is safe.
If your doctor suggests stopping your hormone therapy and you’re not sure why, get in touch with our Specialist Nurses.
Will my regular PSA tests still happen?
Where possible, GP surgeries and hospitals are continuing to provide routine tests as normal. This means that depending on the number of patients with coronavirus in your local area, your PSA tests should continue as planned.
If you usually have blood tests at your GP surgery, you may be asked to wait outside (for example, in your car if you have one). This is so that you don’t have to wait with other patients or spend very long inside the building. If you have coronavirus symptoms, you’ll need to delay your blood test while you follow the latest government guidance on self-isolating at home.
In some areas, a nurse may be able to visit you at home to do blood tests – if you are concerned, ask your GP surgery if this is an option.
If you usually have regular blood tests at the hospital, you may be able to have these at your GP surgery or at home instead. If the hospital hasn’t already contacted you to discuss this, call your medical team to ask if this is an option.
How do I make the most of my phone appointments?
Because of coronavirus, you may have 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 will 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.
Questions to ask your doctor or nurse might include:
- Will coronavirus affect which treatment I can have?
- Which treatments are currently available to me, and what are the side effects?
- Will there be a delay in starting my treatment?
- Will any delay affect how well my treatment works in the long term?
- Will I need regular blood tests and, if so, where and how often?
- Am I safe to go to hospital for my appointments?
- Can you reassure me that I’ll still get the monitoring and tests I need?
- Who can I contact if I have questions or concerns, and will they have time to talk to me?
- Where can I get support?
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.
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 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.
I’m worried about going back to work – what support is there?
Everyone in the UK is advised to work from home if they can. But if you can’t work from home you’re now encouraged to go to work (as long as your employer has taken steps to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading in the workplace). This includes if you’re at very high risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus (if you’re ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’).
If this includes you and 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 that’s not possible, your employer may be able to furlough you under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until 30 September 2021.
- If you’re self-employed, you may be eligible for a Self-employment Income Support Scheme grant.
- If you struggle to find a solution, contact Citizens Advice or Acas for advice.
Help us to support you
We want to know from you how we can best support people affected by prostate cancer during the coronavirus outbreak. Please email our Health Information team with any suggestions or comments about the information on this page.