Behind the headlines: The effects of COVID-19 on people with lymphoma

Our Medical Advisory Panel respond to a recent report in The Independent.


You may have seen an article in The Independent on 25 August reporting on a study published in the journal The Lancet Oncology on 24 August. The study aimed to investigate how tumour subtype and patient demographics affect prevalence and mortality of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

The study involved 1,044 patients with a wide range of tumour types, such as breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers, including lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma. 

We are concerned that the results of the study, as reported in The Independent article, would appear to be quite alarming for people with lymphoma. So, we asked some members of our Medical Advisory Panel, made up of specialists in haematology and oncology, to give us their interpretation of the findings of the study and how they might impact people with lymphoma. 

They commented that while the article suggests that the risk overall is higher for people with lymphoma than for some other cancers, the study shows that case fatality for young people, without any other risk factors is still low. However, as in the general population, risk is affected by age, gender and presence of other health conditions. 

They felt that it was important to emphasise that if you have lymphoma:

  • Your risk is higher than the general population.
  • Other risk factors are relevant (as they are for the population in general) such as older age, being male and other conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
  • For younger lymphoma patients without other risk factors, the mortality rate is low.   
  • You are probably at higher risk if you have recently had chemotherapy .
  • You might find that some of your treatment is adjusted if you are older and have other co-morbidities, although the benefits and risks of doing this will always be discussed with you. 

The Medical Advisory Panel members agreed that it is important that people with lymphoma continue to be cautious, and take adequate protection measures, including strict adherence to social distancing, even though shielding has officially paused. This is to protect themselves from both COVID-19 and other infections as well. 

Contact your medical team if you have concerns about how COVID-19 might affect you and your treatment regime.   

Lymphoma Action have produced ‘Distance Aware Badges’ for people to wear to act as a reminder to everyone to social distance where possible. You can order your free badge through our website.  

You might find our information on COVID-19 and lymphoma helpful. You can contact the Lymphoma Action helpline on 0808 808 5555 or on Live Chat via our website. 

27 August 2020