Close navigation

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and brain tumours

We hope this information will help address some of our community's concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19).

We know that there will be a number of concerns from our community related to the coronavirus and how it can affect you following a brain tumour diagnosis. So we wanted to answer a few questions to help you worry a little less.

Updated: 27 March at 5pm

This page will be updated after daily briefings that will be held by the UK government to share their latest plans and updates.

It is expected that the advice will change as the situation develops so it is essential to regularly review the up-to-date information and advice. We recommend that you take a look at:

We will be trying to keep you updated with the latest information using our social media channels or closed Facebook Groups.

If you are at all concerned about anything you have read or any symptoms you may be experiencing, please contact your medical team as soon as possible, and use the NHS 111 online service or call 111 (England, Scotland and Wales) or 0300 200 7885 (Northern Ireland). Tell the person you speak to about the type of cancer and the treatment you had.

If you would like to talk through or clarify any of the information on this page, please contact our Support and Information Line by ringing 0808 800 0004, emailing us at support@thebraintumourcharity.org or starting a live chat. The Support and Information Line is open Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 5.00pm.

If you have further questions that are not answered below, please send these to support@thebraintumourcharity.org and we will endeavour to answer them or share them with our expert professionals for more information.

What are the latest measures that I should be following?

(Updated: 27 March at 5pm)

The latest updates from the government is that everyone must stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives. They are introducing three new measures:

  1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
  3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

Everyone must comply with these regulations. The police, have been given the powers to enforce them - including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

These measures are effective immediately. The Government will look again at these measures in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.

Read the Government's guidance on these measures.

Read our advice for staying at home

They have now also introduced shielding measures for people who fall within ‘extremely vulnerable’ groups, due to the risk of these individuals developing a serious illness coronavirus (COVID-19). This is different to social distancing.

Learn more about shielding

Which groups of people are considered 'vulnerable'?

(Updated: 23 March at 6pm)

Below we have outlined the groups of people that would be classed as ‘vulnerable’:

Vulnerable people

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (i.e. anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds)
    • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
    • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
    • diabetes
    • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
    • being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
    • those who are pregnant

Which groups of people are considered 'extremely vulnerable' and should be following the shielding advice??

(Updated: 23 March at 6pm)

Below we have outlined the groups of people that would be classed as ‘extremely vulnerable’:

Extremely vulnerable people

People falling into this extremely vulnerable group include:

  • Recipients of kidney, liver, pancreas, heart, and lung transplants
  • People with specific cancers:
    • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
    • people receiving radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
    • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD.
  • People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).
  • People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
  • Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

If you have been in close contact with someone with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19), or are experiencing any symptoms listed below the government recommends you self-isolate for 7 days.

If you are living in the same household as someone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19), or is experiencing any symptoms listed below, the government recommends the entire household self-isolate for 14 days. They are also advising that if you live with a vulnerable person and you are experiencing symptoms that you should try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.

In either case, you should contact your medical team as soon as possible and call 111 (England, Scotland and Wales) or 0300 200 7885 (Northern Ireland). Tell the person you speak to about the type of cancer and the treatment you had.

If you live in a residential care setting please contact the Management Team for your setting for further information.

Read the Government guidelines

Advice from brain tumour experts

If you have further questions that are not answered below, please send these to support@thebraintumourcharity.org and we will endeavour to answer them or share them with our expert professionals for more information.

Below are some frequently answered questions about coronavirus developed by The One Cancer Voice group of charities. The British Neuro-oncology Society (BNOS) has also provided answers towards some of our frequently asked questions. Thank you to the BNOS Council Members for taking time out of their hectic schedules to answer these for us.

BNOS (The British Neuro-oncology society) brings together those working in all disciplines related to Neuro-oncology and exists to: promote high-quality neuro-oncology research, education and multidisciplinary patient-centred care; and. understand brain tumours to ensure the very best care is provided to all patients.

Advice for people living with and receiving treatment for a brain tumour

The information on this page was updated on 23 March 2020 based on the new guidance issued by the UK government on the 22 March 2020. We're continuously reviewing and working to bring you the latest information on coronavirus and brain tumours.

In this section:

If you have further questions that are not answered below, please send these to support@thebraintumourcharity.org and we will endeavour to answer them or share them with our expert professionals for more information.

Are people who have been diagnosed with a brain tumour more at risk?

(Updated: 27 March at 5pm)

There are some clinical conditions which put people at even higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19). If you are in this category, this week the NHS in England will directly contact you with advice about shielding measures you should be taking.

We know that many people living with a brain tumour, may fall within these categories, and should therefore take the necessary measures to protect themselves.

The criteria for cancer patients were carefully defined, based on those with greatest clinical risk. Some cancer patients may receive a letter because they have other conditions that place them in the highest risk cohort.

If you are unsure of your risk and what measures you should be taking, you should speak with your hospital specialist. If this is not possible, you should contact your GP.

If you fall into any of the categories above and have experienced any symptoms listed below, or if you notice a change or worsening in your usual symptoms, please contact your medical team immediately and call 111 (England, Scotland and Wales) or 0300 200 7885 (Northern Ireland). Tell the person you speak to about the type of cancer and the treatment you had.

Remember, if you notice a change or worsening in your usual symptoms, you should always contact your medical team as soon as possible.

Top of section

What are the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

(Updated: 27 March at 5pm)

The most common symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • A high temperature (37.8 degrees and above)
  • A new, continuous cough

Other symptoms include:

  • a dry cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath
  • tiredness

For most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild infection, however if you have these symptoms or notice a change or worsening in your usual symptoms, please speak to your medical team.

The government are asking anyone who shows certain symptoms to self-isolate for 7 days, This means they want people to stay at home and avoid all but essential contact with others for 7 days from the point of displaying mild symptoms, to slow the spread of infection.

However, if you are living in the same household as someone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19), or is experiencing any symptoms listed below, the government recommends the entire household self-isolate for 14 days. You should contact your medical team as soon as possible and call 111 (England, Scotland and Wales) or 0300 200 7885 (Northern Ireland). Tell the person you speak to about the type of cancer and the treatment you had.

If you experience sweats/cough/shivering and you are currently on chemotherapy, you should call the chemotherapy care line. If the chemotherapy care line is not available in your area, please speak to your clinical team about who you should call in this situation.

Top of section

What should I do if I think I have the virus?

(Added 18 March at 6pm)

If you fall into any of the vulnerable categories, and have experienced any symptoms or if you notice a change or worsening in your usual symptoms, please contact your medical team immediately and call 111 (England, Scotland and Wales) or 0300 200 7885 (Northern Ireland). Tell the person you speak to about the type of cancer and the treatment you had. In an emergency, call 999 if you are seriously ill. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.

If you do not feel you fall into the above categories and think you might have coronavirus (COVID-19), you should still make sure that you contact your medical team as soon as possible to tell them your concerns. They are likely to tell you to self-isolate for 7 days and you can use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service to find out more information or you can also call 111 (England, Wales and Scotland or 0300 200 7885 (Northern Ireland). Tell the person you speak to about the type of cancer and the treatment you had.

If you are living in the same household as someone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19), or is experiencing any symptoms listed below, or you are experiencing symptoms, the government recommends the entire household self-isolate for 14 days.

If you are living with someone that is considered vulnerable, then the government recommend that you try and find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. You should contact your medical team as soon as possible and call 111 (England, Scotland and Wales) or 0300 200 7885 (Northern Ireland). Tell the person you speak to about the type of cancer and the treatment you had.

If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 7 days contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.

Tips on isolation:

Top of section

If I feel unwell, should I avoid ibuprofen?

(Updated: 18 March at 6pm)

Guidance from the NHS regarding ibuprofen and COVID-19 states:

“There is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus (COVID-19) worse. But until we have more information, take paracetamol to treat the symptoms of coronavirus, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you.

If you are already taking ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) on the advice of a doctor, do not stop taking it without checking first.”

The BBC also have some useful information about ibuprofen and COVID-19

Top of section

Should I continue with my regular medication?

(Added: 27 March at 5pm)

You should continue to take all of the medications, which have been prescribed by your healthcare team. This includes steroids (dexamethasone) and anti-epileptic medication. You might find our ‘self-isolation tips’ blog useful for finding out more about the prescription delivery services.

Steroids

If you’re taking steroids, you should not reduce or stop taking these abruptly, without talking to your medical team. It is not yet know whether steroids can increase the risk of getting Coronavirus or the severity of the infection, but you it’s important that you keep taking your treatment, to help with the management of brain-tumour related symptoms.

Anti-epileptic medication

Anti-epileptic medication are not immunosuppressant’s and you should continue to take these. Coronavirus will not increase your risk of seizures.

Top of section

Will my upcoming treatment be affected?

(Updated: 27 March at 5pm)

We know our community is thinking about the impact of Coronavirus on their treatment. Unfortunately, People’s appointments and treatments are changing during this crisis, so we are providing information about what’s happening, the reasons for changes and some advice on how to cope.

Read more about how your treatment could be affected.

Top of section

What will happen to my upcoming appointments and scans?

(Added: 27 March at 5pm)

Your healthcare team will weigh up the risks and benefits of you having a MRI scan based upon your individual case. Many hospitals have now suspended ‘routine’ follow-up MRI scans for those with stable low-grade brain tumours, who are not exhibiting symptoms. It’s likely that MRI scans for patients who are on treatment for high grade brain tumours will continue, however this is not the case at every centre and these decisions will be made upon a case by case basis.

Many hospitals have started to use telephone, email or video consultations as a way of helping people to avoid people having to go into clinics and also to avoid long waits, for both regular and follow up appointments. You may be called to arrange your treatments in this way. Some patients with low grade brain tumours are likely to have their appointments postponed at this time. If you have any concerns or worries about any changes or new symptoms, please do contact your healthcare team.

Top of section

Will there be problems accessing my cancer drugs?

(Added: 18 March at 6pm)

There are currently no medicine shortages as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). The country is well prepared to deal with any impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and we have stockpiles of generic drugs like paracetamol in the event of any supply issues. The Department of Health and Social Care is working closely with industry, the NHS and others in the supply chain to ensure patients can access the medicines they need and precautions are in place to prevent future shortages.

There is no need for patients to change the way they order prescriptions or take their medicines. Patients should always follow the advice of doctors, pharmacists or other prescribers who prescribe and dispense their medicines and medical products. The NHS has tried-and-tested ways of making sure patients receive their medicines and medical products, even under difficult circumstances. If patients order extra prescriptions, or stockpile, it will put pressure on stocks, meaning that some patients may not get the medicines or medical products they need.

Top of section

What can I do to avoid catching or spreading the COVID-19?

(Updated: 23 March at 6pm)

In addition to the latest government advice, here are the extra steps you can follow to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus (COVID-19):

Additional preventative measures

Additional advice that can be followed is to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) is:

  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds. WHO have some useful guidelines for this and there is a demonstration video from the NHS
  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell, and maintain a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing.
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards

Advice for people who have had a brain tumour in the past

The information on this page was updated on 19th March 2020 based on the new guidance issued by the UK government on the 18th of March. We're continuously reviewing and working to bring you the latest information on coronavirus and brain tumours.

If you have further questions that are not answered below, please send these to support@thebraintumourcharity.org and we will endeavour to answer them or share them with our expert professionals for more information.

If I’ve had treatment for cancer in the past – even if I am now in remission – am I more at risk if I get the virus?

This depends on the type of cancer and the treatment you have had and how long ago your treatment finished. Following cancer treatment, most people’s immune system either fully recovers or is not affected.

However, if you have received treatment in the last 3 months, for example chemotherapy, you will fall into one of the groups who should take particular care.

If you have been in close contact with someone with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19), or are experiencing any symptoms listed below the government recommends you self-isolate for 7 days. Contact your specialist medical team as soon as possible and call 111 (England, Scotland and Wales) or 0300 200 7885 (Northern Ireland). Tell the person you speak to about the type of cancer and the treatment you had.

Back to top

Advice for family, friends and carers of brain tumour patients

The information on this page was updated on 23 March 2020 based on the new guidance issued by the UK government on the 22 of March. We're continuously reviewing and working to bring you the latest information on coronavirus (COVID-19) and brain tumours.

In this section:

If you have further questions that are not answered below, please send these to support@thebraintumourcharity.org and we will endeavour to answer them or share them with our expert professionals for more information.

I am experiencing symptoms of the virus and am a carer for someone with cancer. What should I do?

(Updated: 23 March at 6pm)

The Government is currently advising that if you have symptoms and you live with a vulnerable person, you should try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.

If the individual you are caring for falls into any of the 'extremely vulnerable' categories and has experienced any symptoms or if you notice a change or worsening in their usual symptoms, please contact their medical team immediately and call 111 (England, Scotland and Wales) or 0300 200 7885 (Northern Ireland). Tell the person you speak to about the type of cancer and the treatment they had.

Top of section

Who will look after the vulnerable person I care for if I am unable to due to coronavirus?

(Added: 18 March at 6pm)

The Government is currently advising that if you have symptoms and you live with a vulnerable person, you should try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.

If you provide essential care (such as help with washing, dressing, or preparing meals), you may find this guidance on Home care provision useful.

It is also a good idea to think about what happens if you become unwell. If you need help with care but you’re not sure who to contact, or if you do not have family or friends who can help, you can contact your local council who should be able to help you. Carers UK have also produced advice for those currently caring for others.

Top of section

What can I do to protect my vulnerable family member?

(Updated: 18 March at 6pm)

Carers UK have shared some information about guidance for carers regarding coronavirus (COVID-19).

They suggest in the first instance, it is advisable to protect yourself and others by following the hygiene and infection control guidelines illustrated on the BBC's video and included under How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus on the NHS website.

If you provide essential care (such as help with washing, dressing, or preparing meals), you may find this guidance on Home care provision useful.

If you do not live with those you care for then it is best to keep in regular contact over the phone, through email or through video calls.

Families may want to think about spending time together in a different way – for example, by setting up a group chat or playing online games together. If online communication isn't possible, never underestimate the value of a regular phone call to offer social contact and support.

If necessary, make plans for alternative face-to-face care for the person you care for, for example by calling on trusted neighbours, friends or family members.

Carers UK have some information about setting up a contingency plan for care needs

Top of section

What is the latest update for schools?

(Updated: 20 March at 3:30pm)

The latest update from the government is that schools in the UK, in addition to schools in Scotland and Wales, will close except for looking after the children of keyworkers and vulnerable children, from Friday until further notice.

However, schools, and all childcare providers, are being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children:

  • children who are vulnerable,
  • children whose parents are critical to the coronavirus (COVID-19) response and cannot be safely cared for at home

This will means that far fewer children will be in schools with the aim to reduce the spread of the virus.

This does mean that exams will not take place in May and June.

Read more about the provision of childcare for keyworkers and vulnerable children

Top of section

This information may change, so try to keep up-to-date with the latest advice from the NHS, the World Health Organisation (WHO) or your Government's website:

The BBC also have continuous and up to date information regarding the latest updates from the government and news from around the world.

More information about coronavirus COVID-19

Shielding the vulnerable

What is shielding, who is affected and answers to some frequently asked questions.

Find out more

Tips for self-isolating

Practical suggestions and advice on how to self isolate for coronavirus COVID-19

Read tips

Looking after your well-being

How to look after your mental health and wellbeing during self-isolation for coronavirus COVID-19

Read more

If you have further questions or need to clarify any of the information on this page, please contact our Support and Information Line by ringing 0808 800 0004, emailing us at support@thebraintumourcharity.org or starting a live chat. The Support and Information Line is open Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 5.00pm.

Media contacts at The Brain Tumour Charity

Press office contact details:

Phone: Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm: 01252 237864
Out of hours media contact: 07990 828385
Email: pressoffice@thebraintumourcharity.org