Making sure ovarian cancer treatment goes ahead through the pandemic

At Target Ovarian Cancer we're committed to ensuring that the voices of women with ovarian cancer are heard by decision makers and the NHS and we know this is even more important in these uncertain times. We're working hard to make sure ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment still goes ahead despite the coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic.

We're talking to decision makers in national governments and the NHS, and working in collaboration with other organisations to highlight the concerns of our community. This includes:

  • regular updates with the cancer policy team at NHS England
  • acting as secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ovarian Cancer
  • working with the British Gynaecological Cancer Society
  • being part of Cancer 52, the coalition of rare and less common cancers to ensure that our collective voice is heard by decision-makers
  • being part of the One Cancer Voice coalition of charities
  • being a member of the Scottish Cancer Coalition
  • being a member of the Wales Cancer Alliance. 

Through these channels we are raising awareness of the issues particular to women with ovarian cancer and ensuring that, in these difficult times you get the best care and treatment possible.

Our main areas of focus are: 

  • ensuring that, as far as possible, diagnosis and treatment goes ahead and steps to mitigate the impact of coronavirus/Covid-19 on women with ovarian cancer are in place
  • for those whose treatment has to be reviewed, changed or postponed, making sure this is done in consultation with your treatment team
  • ensuing that once the peak of the pandemic has passed cancer diagnosis and treatment is returned to normal as quickly as possible.

If you would like to share your experiences with us to support our influencing work please email us: campaigns@targetovariancancer.org.uk.

What is being done to ensure diagnosis and treatment goes ahead?

Every NHS in the UK has made it clear that even in the context of coronavirus the diagnosis and treatment of cancer must remain a priority.

At the end of April Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, wrote to all NHS trusts in the England to tell that they should step up non-Covid 19 urgent services as soon as possible and to look at how elective or non-urgent care can resume. For cancer services this means ring fencing diagnosis and surgical capacity to ensure referrals, diagnostic tests and treatment can be bought back to pre-pandemic levels as quickly as possible.

Treatment

The NHS and your clinical team are attempting to ensure that, if it is safe to do so, treatment goes ahead but there are likely to be some changes. These include:

  • having your appointments over the phone or video call instead of going into the hospital
  • changes to your planned treatment which might include having it in a different hospital or starting different types of treatment
  • waiting to start your treatment if the risk posed by coronavirus means the treatment is not safe at present – this must always be discussed and agreed with your treatment team.

If you have any questions or concerns about your treatment or any other aspect of your care, our support line is here for you.

Treatment hubs

The NHS in England is setting up treatment hubs to coordinate urgent and essential treatment so that treatment can go ahead in 'clean sites' where no patients with Covid-19 are being treated. These hubs are now fully operational in the majority of Cancer Alliances. 

We want to see the same model being rolled out in the other UK nations.

Should I still attend my medical appointments?

If you have a scheduled treatment or medical appointment, contact your treatment team or hospital to confirm that your appointment is essential. Always seek advice from your treating team; don't make decisions about not attending for treatment without a discussion with a member of your team.

Speak with your clinical team about the effects of the current situation on your individual treatment plan. This may vary between individual women so don't be concerned if you're being treated differently to someone else.

Most hospitals have started to use more telephone consultations as a way of helping people to avoid long waits in clinics and for treatment. You may be called to arrange your treatments in this way, and planned treatments may need to be moved to ensure that treatment is delivered in the safest possible way for each woman.

I'm concerned about attending hospital for my appointments. Will they be safe?

If you must go into hospital for appointments, including chemotherapy, your clinical team will be well aware of your needs and will making every possible effort to safeguard your wellbeing while you're in their care receiving your treatment.

Busy places as you enter the hospital, lifts and communal areas will all be made as safe as possible; however, everyone must also follow the government advice on keeping themselves safe and following social distances and social shielding measures.

If you feel in need of greater reassurance then phone your hospital and ask for them to explain the measures they are putting place.