Cancer warning: The complications that can develop if you get coronavirus

3 min

Coronavirus has a global mortality rate of 3.4 percent, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). What are the dangers if somebody with cancer catches the disease?

WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “This is a unique virus, with unique features. This virus is not influenza.”

As of 3 March, the government has reported 51 confirmed UK cases of coronavirus (COVID-19).


With UK cases mounting, what does this mean for those with a compromised immune system?

Dr Christina Tan, state epidemiologist at the New Jersey Department of Health, told Contagion Live – a news publication which specialises in infectious diseases: “All individuals with weakened immune systems might be at higher risk for complications associated with the virus that causes COVID illness.”

Based on current evidence, the Department of Health and Social Care report the main symptoms of COVID-19 are a cough, high temperature and – in severe cases – shortness of breath.

The Department of Health and Social Care add: “As it is a new virus, the lack of immunity in the population (and the absence as yet

of an effective vaccine) means that COVID-19 has the potential to spread extensively.

“The current data seem to show that we are all susceptible to catching this disease, and thus it also more likely than not that the UK will be significantly affected.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Using too much hand sanitiser could increase your risk of getting the virus

Cancer warning: The complications that can develop if you get coronavirus

Coronavirus: What are the dangers of having cancer (Image: Getty)

The organisation says the present data reveals that the majority of those who catch COVID-19 will show mild to moderate symptoms.


However, a minority of people with coronavirus will develop complications severe enough to require hospital care – most often pneumonia.

The report by the Department of Health and Social Care does state a small proportion of those who develop complications, such as pneumonia, may result in death.

“The risk of severe disease and death increases amongst elderly people and in people with underlying health risk conditions (in the same way as for seasonal flu),” it confirms.

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The government’s plan of action to respond to COVID-19 are to “contain, delay, research and mitigate”.

To date, the government’s aim to “contain” the virus has seen those who have tested positive for the virus to self isolate for 14 days.

The report details how “many of the actions involved in the ‘contain’ phase also act to help ‘delay’ the onset of an epidemic if it becomes inevitable.”

What’s an epidemic?


An epidemic describes a large number of cases of a particular disease (in this case it would be coronavirus), happening at the same time in a particular community.

Cancer warning: The complications that can develop if you get coronavirus

Coronavirus: The infectious disease can be concerning for people who have cancer (Image: Getty)

The informative report details how we, as citizens, can help to contain and delay the spread of coronavirus.

Washing hands with soap and water is imperative to help stop the disease from spreading.

The “catch it, bin it, kill it” strategy has been touted as one of the best ways to stop coronavirus.

This strategy refers to catch sneezes and coughs into tissues, and binning it immediately to “kill” the possibility of the virus spreading.

The NHS supports the notion that the best way to slow the spread of coronavirus is to wash your hands more often than usual.

The health body recommends people to wash your hands “whenever you get home or into work”, “blow your nose, sneeze or cough”, and when you “eat or handle food”.


It also suggests using a hand sanitiser gel if soap and water aren’t available, and to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

Cancer Health report “People with cancer are at an increased risk for serious illness from COVID-19.”

The Scientist magazine adds: “People most likely to develop severe forms of COVID-19 are those with pre-existing illnesses and the elderly.”

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty has said the UK will see a significant number of COVID-19 cases and some “deaths”.

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