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Coronavirus: Cancer patients told their treatment must stop

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Chemotherapy treatment on some patients with cancer has been stopped as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus. (stock photo)

Chemotherapy treatment on some patients with cancer has been stopped as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus. (stock photo)

PA Archive/PA Images

Chemotherapy treatment on some patients with cancer has been stopped as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus. (stock photo)

Chemotherapy treatment on some patients with cancer has been stopped as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus.

Medical staff are telling some patients suffering from cancer that, after careful evaluation, their treatment must be postponed.

Some individuals with particularly aggressive, or late stage, forms of cancer are being informed that the risk to their life, if they contract the virus, is too great to continue chemotherapy.

One patient being treated at Belfast City Hospital's Cancer Centre told the Belfast Telegraph that a doctor was in tears on informing the individual that the scheduled chemotherapy session was postponed, and that none will take place until further notice.

In a statement, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said that "chemotherapy and radiotherapy services at Belfast Trust continue to operate with treatment proceeding for patients who require it".

The trust added: "We have a duty of care to our patients, therefore it is important that clinicians discuss the individual risk factors with patients at each stage of their cancer journey.

"For some patients clinicians may need to discuss whether the risks of beginning or continuing their cancer treatment could outweigh the benefits, given that many patients receiving chemotherapy in particular are more at risk of becoming seriously unwell if they contract the coronavirus infection.

"We appreciate this is a difficult time for all of patients and will do everything we can to ensure continuity of care throughout this challenging time."

One patient told the Belfast Telegraph that staff said they had to limit treatment and are sending people home with the advice to stay clear of any risk factors that could lead to them catching the virus.

The immune system of patients undergoing chemotherapy and is deeply weakened, leaving them at much greater risk if they contract the virus. Radiotherapy also can impact the immune system.

Dervilia Kernaghan, head of care service at Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, said: "This is a very worrying time for everyone and we are very conscious that our service users are coping with all of this on top of the impact of a cancer diagnosis, treatment or bereavement.

"Many may feel particularly vulnerable due to decreased immunity associated with different types of cancer treatment.

"Our health service is under massive pressure and faces unprecedented challenges. While we are all feeling overwhelmed by what is happening, cancer hasn't gone away and we are very mindful that patients need perhaps even more support than usual.

"In our 50 year history, Cancer Focus NI has never faced a situation like this and we are doing our best to continue counselling and helping patients via phone and Skype."

Earlier this week, the Northern Ireland Hospice made a public plea for donations as it announced the postponement off all planned fundraising events.

Fundraising events planned for over the coming few weeks were also expected to raise £250,000.

A spokesperson said: "The health and safety of our supporters, staff and the public is paramount and we will not risk a potential infection."

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Belfast Telegraph