Cancer doesn’t stop. Neither do we.

Continuing your treatment and keeping you safe during COVID-19

Your health and safety is our priority

A cancer diagnosis is difficult enough to deal with, without the added complications of COVID-19.
Your safety and continued access to high-quality care are our top priorities. Our teams have taken every precaution to ensure that people seeking treatment and staff are safe in GenesisCare centres.

It’s vital that people who need treatment for cancer don’t delay this treatment.
Early diagnosis and treatment greatly improve outcomes and survivorship.

Evidence-based care: what we know now

We are continuously adapting and responding to the latest evidence and advice from international organisations such as the World Health Organisation. We also have the benefit of learnings and experience from our international colleagues through our global network. All this evidence informs how we care for people with cancer.

The latest studies have revealed key learnings about cancer and COVID-19.

While those who are immunosuppressed are likely to be more vulnerable to viral infections than the general population, the risk of COVID-19 for people with cancer may not be as high as initially expected.

Currently it’s understood the risk of COVID-19 for people living with cancer is lower than previously estimated, particularly for patients having radiotherapy as their primary treatment. The most significant risk factors remain age (>70), gender (male) and other illnesses, particularly severe respiratory disease. Learn more.

The importance of beginning or continuing your treatment

In a number of countries, studies are showing reduced numbers of people being diagnosed with and receiving treatment for cancer since COVID-19 began. In Australia, the Cancer Council reports a 37 per cent drop in breast cancer cases in Victoria during April and May. This is worrying because we know early diagnosis and treatment is key to achieving the best possible outcomes and survivorship.

These decreases are due to a number of factors. We understand you may have concerns about accessing healthcare in a safe environment. Rest assured, we are taking every precaution to ensure our centres are clean and safe for patients and team members, so you can begin or continue treatment safely. Experience from our overseas centres has also shown that even when a patient is infected with COVID-19 treatment can continue in most cases.

“These data about consequences of delayed diagnosis and treatment as a result of the pandemic are significant for Australia, especially when noting that is has been estimated that there would be approximately 150,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in 2020 in Australia, which is approximately 405 cases per day. Changed behaviour – including reduced cancer screening, reduced presentations to the GP, reduced referrals to specialist cancer services and treatment delays – are likely to impact these projections, the stage of cancer at diagnosis, and ultimately cancer outcomes in Australia.” -Cancer Australia

If you have any concerns about starting or continuing treatment for cancer at this time, please reach out to your local centre.

Continuing to provide care across the globe

We’re continuously adapting to ensure you can safely access the treatment you need, where and when you need it. Here’s everything you need to know about navigating cancer treatment during COVID-19.

What are we doing to keep you safe

Providing safe and clean facilities remains a key focus, and we have increased the frequency of cleaning rounds including in high use areas such as waiting rooms, nursing stations and planning rooms.

All employees and guests are asked to practice increased vigilance with hygiene and infection control, with hand sanitizer available throughout our centres, hand washing guides displayed and other reminder notices in centres.

We are screening everyone for symptoms and assessing risk on arrival.

We are minimising the number of people who enter our centres and are asking only carers who are essential to patients’ wellbeing to enter the centre. Visitors will be asked to complete a risk assessment on arrival.

Visitors may not be admitted if they:

  • Have been diagnosed with coronavirus and have not been released from isolation
  • Have arrived in Australia in the last 14 days
  • Have come into contact with a person who has a confirmed care of coronavirus in the last 14 days
  • Have a temperature of 37.5’c or greater or symptoms of acute respiratory infection.
  • Have been advised to quarantine or self-isolate by a health authority
  • Have recently visited a hot spot

Any employees or patients who have entered Australia on or after 16 March are required to self-isolate for 14 days, in line with Australian Government measures.

GenesisCare has an emergency response plan in place which we will activate if a patient and/or employee becomes positive for COVID-19.

Your doctor will let you know if it is appropriate to conduct consultations via telehealth.

In line with the latest global health advice, all GenesisCare staff who interact with patients wear masks, and other PPE such as eye protection, gloves and gowns as recommended by health authorities and guidelines.

Please let us know if you are experiencing symptoms such as fever or a cough. Visit the Department of Health website for information on seeking medical attention for symptoms of COVID-19, and ensure you communicate your current diagnosis and treatments to clinicians or telemedicine providers. Please call us in advance of your appointment if you are feeling unwell.

The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve whereby some suburbs and states are experiencing an increase in coronavirus cases, these locations are known as “hotspots”. To keep you and others safe, please let our team know if you have been to a known hotspot.

In order to reduce the number of people in the waiting room, please do not arrive too early for your appointment. Please arrive no more than 10 minutes before your appointment time. Where possible, we encourage a minimum of 1.5 metres between people in our waiting rooms.

Unfortunately, not all our centres are able to offer hot beverages, refreshments and newspapers/magazines as usual. We will return hot beverages and other waiting room items in line with local health guidelines. We encourage you to bring your own water bottle and to use the hand sanitiser provided before and after touching the tap.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitiser provided, avoid touching your face, and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue if you cough or sneeze. Please dispose of tissues and wash hands immediately following. Please wear a mask if your State Government requires you to.

Kindly request that any visitors displaying symptoms of illness, such as elevated temperature, coughing, sneezing or headaches, postpone their visit to your home.

Talk to us if your regular transport to and from our centre has been impacted and we will work with you to find a solution.

It is important that you complete the course of treatment and any medications prescribed for you. Please let us know if you wish to speak to us about any concerns you have.

Where appropriate, some of your doctor’s appointments may take place via phone or telehealth. Telehealth can be used for appointments with your doctor when they are at a different location to you. This will allow you and your doctor to discuss and share health information and images without the need for you to travel to a clinic. Specific details will be provided as required. This will help reduce the risk for you and other patients.

FAQs

I have an upcoming appointment with GenesisCare

All our centres and clinics are operating, and we are carefully assessing each patient’s individual risks to provide the best care. We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic globally, implementing the latest State and Federal Government advice, and adding extra precautionary measures to maintain a safe environment for our teams and patients.

It’s important that you continue your treatment as prescribed. Cancer doesn’t stop and nor should your treatment.

To keep our patients and staff safe we have implemented the following preventative measures:

  • Additional cleaning: Providing safe and clean facilities remains a key focus, and we have increased the frequency of cleaning rounds including in high-use areas.
  • Reinforcing strict hygiene protocols: All employees and guests are asked to practice increased vigilance with hygiene and infection control, with hand sanitizer available throughout our centres, hand washing guides displayed and other reminder notices in centres.
  • Pre-visit screening: We are screening patients for symptoms with a phone assessment and in-centre questionnaire, and in some regions on arrival.
  • Reduction of non-essential visitors: We have reduced the number of people in our centres
  • Additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): In some centres and states we have increased the PPE worn by staff and patients in line with state health department requirements.

Yes. GenesisCare can provide you with a letter stating the need for travel and that patients are exempt from any travel ban that may be in place. Please contact your local treatment centre to get a copy of a letter. Where long distance interstate travel is required, please discuss this first with your Doctor.

Please contact your local centre if you are concerned about how self-isolation may impact your treatment or procedure.

Yes, even if you’re self-isolating please keep attending your treatment appointments. Our team will let you know if you need to attend any ongoing appointments via our Telehealth service (videoconferencing) for oncology and cardiology. If you have any concerns about self-isolating please call your centre.

The Department of Health has more information for older people, available here.

Everybody is at risk of contracting COVID-19. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people living in remote communities are at greater risk from COVID-19. We encourage you to follow the guidelines provided by the Department of Health to protect yourself, your mob and stop the spread.

More information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is available here.

To protect our patients, visitors and staff, all visitors and carers are being asked not to attend our centres. We ask that you only bring a support person who you feel is important for your well being.

Please contact your centre prior to your appointment if you are experiencing symptoms such as fever or a cough. Visit the Department of Health website for information on seeking medical attention for symptoms of COVID-19, and ensure you communicate your current diagnosis and treatments to clinicians or telemedicine providers.

If you’re concerned that you may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms the Department of Health has provided an online self-checker tool via the healthdirect website.

Alternatively, if you wish to speak to someone directly to discuss your symptoms call heathdirect on 1800 022 222.

Healthdirect are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice.

Radiation therapy is often a key treatment for reducing symptoms due to cancer. We’ll continue to provide radiation therapy to patients for palliation. If you’re concerned about attending a treatment centre and want to discuss alternative methods of symptom control for your cancer, please discuss options with your doctor.

Our centres are equipped to continue treatment if a patient contracts COVID-19 and continuation of treatment will depend on the severity of the COVID-19 infection. Every patient case will be assessed individually to ensure the highest safety of our patients and team members. Treatment times and/or treatment plans may be adjusted but the aim of treatment of your cancer will not change.

Your risk of COVID-19 will depend on factors that affect your immune system together with other factors such as age. Factors that can influence your immune system’s ability to function may include the how long ago you had radiation therapy, duration of the treatment and other treatments such as chemotherapy. Risk of COVID-19 is assessed on a case by case basis, if you’re very concerned please contact your doctor for more advice.

In Australia, a small portion of COVID-19 community transmitted cases were contracted from asymptomatic people. It’s possible to contract COVID-19 from asymptomatic people so we encourage everyone to practice vigilance and take measures to protect themselves.

People with pre-existing health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, cancer or respiratory illnesses such as asthma and COPD, are at higher risk of developing more severe symptoms from COVID-19. For cancer patients, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy can weaken their immune system, leaving them more vulnerable to infections like COVID-19. Similarly, patients with asthma or COPD are often treated with high dose steroid medication which can also dampen the immune system and put them at increased risk of infection.

Resources to support you:

  1. Department of Health

    COVID-19 Support website for resources to support your mental health and wellbeing.

  2. The Cancer Council

    offer additional information about cancer and Coronavirus  and also offers telephone support on 13 11 20.

  3. Look Good Feel Good

    (LGFG) are running virtual workshops for cancer patients. Visit their website to find out more.

  4. Breast Cancer Network Australia

    (BCNA) have online resources for breast patients, such as podcasts, which you can find here.

  5. Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia

    (PCFA) have an online factsheet available to provide support for prostate patients.

  6. Rare Cancers

    have established a “COVID-19 hub” showcasing resources and information, such as factsheets and videos, to assist you during this time.

  7. Beyond Five

    for head and neck cancer patients, Beyond Five have a comprehensive health and wellbeing offering, with support in your local area.

Expert opinions

Advice for patients currently undergoing radiation therapy treatment

We sat down with Associate Professor Peter O’Brien, Radiation Oncologist and Chief Medical Officer, to answer some of your questions around undergoing radiation therapy during COVID-19.

Coronavirus and underlying respiratory health conditions

We sat down with GenesisCare respiratory physician, Dr Scott Claxton, to find out more about coronavirus and how it may impact people with pre-existing respiratory conditions.