Guðmundur Pálsson 20. mar. 2020

Covid-19: Questions and answers

Answers to common questions that concern people with cancer and their caregivers.

Due to circumstances arising from COVID-19 we have many questions. Here below are answers to common questions that concern people with cancer and their caregivers.

Is everyone with cancer at greater risk?

Yes, all those with cancer are at risk.

Are those who have completed treatment at greater risk?

People who have completed cancer treatment in the last 6 months are also in the high risk group. Those who have had bone marrow transplants in the last 2 years are also at risk.

Do I belong to the high risk group if I have had surgical treatment for my cancer?

No, you do not. If the cancer has been removed, you are fully recovered after the surgery and are not undergoing any further treatment, and you do not have any other underlying illnesses, you are not considered at risk.

I have completed my cancer treatment. Do I need to follow the instructions from The Directorate of Health intended for high risk groups?

If you completed your treatment more than 6 months ago, you are not considered to be at greater risk. If you are not certain you should contact the department where you received cancer treatment or the Icelandic Cancer Society Counselling Service at 800 4040.

Should everyone with cancer stay home?

Yes, the newest information from the authorities is clear. We need to take care of each other and those who are in the high risk groups, and all those who have cancer should stay home as much as the can to decrease the risk of infection.

I have a booked appointment for cancer treatment, should I postpone it?

No, you should follow the treatment plan that was laid out for you, unless you receive a message from the hospital or your doctor. Try to avoid using public transportation on the way to and from treatment and testing.

How dangerous is it for cancer patients who become ill from the Covid virus?

Often cancer patients who are undergoing cancer treatment have reduced defenses (weakened immune systems) due to their treatment. When the immune system is impaired, the person is more susceptible to infection. Therefore, cancer patients are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and fall into the high risk group. Most cases of COVID are mild, but high risk patients are in danger of getting seriously ill from the infection and may develop, for instance, severe pneumonia.

I live with a cancer patient. What should I do?

As a close relative it is important that you, just like cancer patients, follow the guidelines for people at risk. Try to limit contact as much as possible and practice good hygiene. Follow the rules about hand-washing and cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. If you have any - flu like symptoms it is important to stay away from cancer patients. Here is information about reducing the risk of infection. 

May I visit my relatives in hospital or nursing homes?

Hospitals and nursing homes are currently not allowing visitors except in cases of special circumstances. Most people in hospital have phones and a good way to be in touch is to phone them, health permitting. Families and patients should decide together who should be assigned the task of acting as a contact person with the doctors and nurses. Health care professionals should keep you informed about their condition and what the next steps are. It is important to find ways to decrease time spent in hospitals and nursing homes. More information is here.

May I visit relatives in hospice care?

Yes, visits to hospice are allowed but limited. It is important to contact the hospice for more information, phone 543 6602.

May I have receive guests if I have cancer?

It is a good idea to limit visitors to people undergoing cancer treatment in order to reduce the risk of infection. If you have people visit be sure and tell them to follow instructions from the Chief Epidemiologist in order to keep risk at a minimum and ask people not to visit if they are sick or have any flu like symptoms. If you are in doubt contact the department where you receive cancer treatment or your local health clinic.

I am undergoing cancer treatment, may my children have their friends over?

If you are in treatment it is advisable to limit all guests to your home, both children and adults.

What should I do if I develop symptoms?

It is important to monitor your symptoms. If you have a cold or feel weak it is important to monitor your symptoms and to be aware. This goes for everyone. If you are a cancer patient, and are experiencing symptoms of a cold or weakness it is best to stay home and to have contact with as few people as possible so you don‘t infect others. If your symptoms get worse or you develop a fever or cough stay home and phone 1700, your local health clinic or live chat on heilsuvera.is. A health professional will advise you.

Symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the corona virus

  • Fever
  • Cough (usually a dry cough)
  • Bone and muscle aches, and cough

Digestive tract problems (abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea) are not common but possible.

In General

Instructions regarding the Covid-19 pandemic change as information about the virus is collected. For the latest information which is trustworthy and reliable visit covid.is, which is now available in English and Polish. There is a lot of information circulating from many different sources and as the specialists have warned, be careful about sources. We recommend the information on covid.is.

Compiled by Agnes Smáradóttir, Chief oncologist at Landspítali
and Sigrún Lillie Magnúsdóttir, executive director of the Icelandic Cancer Society.


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