If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and are worried about lockdown restrictions easing, the following information might help. Last updated 21 September 2021.
- Worries about easing restrictions
- What you can do to stay as safe as possible
- Do breast cancer treatments affect the immune system?
- Who is more at risk from Covid-19?
- Coping with worries
Since Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, it’s natural to feel worried if you’re living with breast cancer or having treatment.
While some cancer treatments might put you at higher risk from Covid-19, not everyone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer will be more at risk.
Find out who may be more at risk from Covid-19.
While some people might feel relieved that things are getting back to some kind of normality, others might have preferred it if some restrictions remained in place for longer.
If you’re feeling anxious, it might help to talk things over with a member of our Helpline team. Call us free on 0808 800 6000.
If you’re worried about your risk from Covid-19, there are things you can do to help protect yourself.
- Having both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine (and a third vaccine if you are offered one by your treatment team or GP)
- Having a booster vaccine if you’re offered one
- Considering limiting close contact with people you do not usually meet
- Meeting people outside where possible
- Asking people who are visiting you to take a rapid lateral flow test beforehand
- Wearing a face covering in crowded areas, such as on public transport
The government has information for people who were considered clinically extremely vulnerable from Covid-19.
Some treatments, such as chemotherapy, can increase the risk of becoming seriously ill if you get Covid-19. This is because they can affect the immune system making it harder for the body to fight infections.
However, not all cancer treatments affect the immune system.
Read more about breast cancer treatment and Covid-19 risk.
Does hormone therapy affect the immune system?
Taking hormone therapy does not affect your immune system.
Hormone therapies, including tamoxifen, letrozole, anastrozole, exemestane and goserelin, do not affect your risk of getting coronavirus or of becoming seriously ill if you do get it.
Does trastuzumab (Herceptin) affect the immune system?
Having trastuzumab (Herceptin) could mean you’re more at risk of getting coronavirus or becoming very ill if you get it.
The risk is likely to be higher if you’re having it with chemotherapy.
However, having both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine reduces the risk, and your treatment team or GP may also suggest a third vaccine to reduce your risk further.
Does having lymph nodes removed affect your immune system?
Having lymph nodes removed does not affect your body’s ability to fight infections.
It’s common to have lymph nodes under the arm removed as part of surgery for breast cancer.
While having lymph node surgery increases the risk of a condition called lymphoedema, having nodes removed or having lymphoedema does not affect the overall ability of the immune system to fight infection.
Having certain treatments for breast cancer could mean you’re more at risk of getting an infection such as Covid-19, and more at risk of becoming seriously ill if you do get it.
However, most people having cancer treatment will have had both their vaccines, reducing the risk of serious illness, and some people will also be offered a third vaccine by their treatment team or GP.
People considered more at risk include those having:
- Immunotherapy or targeted (biological) therapies such as trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) or everolimus (Afinitor)
- Trastuzumab (Herceptin), or trastuzumab with pertuzumab (Perjeta), with or without chemotherapy (the risk is likely to be smaller if you’re not having chemotherapy as well)
- Other targeted (biological) therapies which can affect the immune system, including palbociclib (Ibrance), ribociclib (Kisqali) and abemaciclib (Verzenios)
Compared with chemotherapy drugs, targeted therapies tend to have fewer serious side effects. However, they can still cause problems in some people.
Because of this, it’s best to contact your hospital team to check your individual risk.
People on these treatments usually have regular blood tests to check their white blood cell count. A low white blood count means you’re more at risk of infection.
If you’re having any of these treatments, you may be advised to take extra precautions to protect yourself. You may also be recommended a third coronavirus vaccine if you have already had two previous vaccines.
While the pandemic has been hard for everyone, it may have been particularly difficult if you were dealing with a cancer diagnosis, going through treatment or shielding.
You might be worried that restrictions are being eased too quickly, especially as the risk from Covid-19 hasn’t completely gone away.
Some people may feel they’re no longer protected from others now that social distancing rules have been relaxed.
However you feel, give yourself time to adjust to the new situation.
You may find it helpful to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. You can call our Helpline free on 0808 800 6000.
You may also find it useful to read our tips on managing stress and anxiety.
The NHS website has more tips on how to cope with anxiety about lockdown lifting.
Need to talk to someone? Our breast care nurses and highly trained staff on our free and confidential Helpline are here for you.