What Victims of Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Need to Know About Coronavirus
Last updated May. 27, 2020
The uncertainty of the global coronavirus pandemic is stressful all on its own, but for many people, there’s another health concern on their minds — lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma. Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the U.S., and while mesothelioma is less common, both types of cancer often have something major in common with COVID-19 — they can impact the lungs.
What should victims of these two types of cancer, and their families and loved ones, know about the novel coronavirus and how to protect themselves?
Because COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, it’s a particular concern for people who have underlying conditions affecting the lungs, chest and other respiratory systems, and this includes people diagnosed with lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare cancer that most often affects the lungs.
Most major studies of the death rates associated with COVID-19 have concluded that those with underlying health conditions, in particular people who are older or have a chronic lung disease, are at an elevated risk of serious illness or even death if they develop COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several groups are at an elevated risk of becoming seriously ill:
- Those 65 and older
- Residents of nursing or long-term care facilities
- People with serious heart conditions
- Those with weakened immune systems
- People whose BMI is 40 or higher
- Those with diabetes, chronic kidney disease or liver disease
- People with chronic lung disease or asthma
Victims of lung cancer and mesothelioma who are undergoing treatment for cancer, such as chemotherapy or radiation, aren’t specifically called out on this list, but given the location of their cancer (the lungs), as well as the immune system impacts often caused by cancer treatment, these people may be at quite a high risk, indeed, from COVID-19. Additionally, the median age of diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma is 72, and the average age of lung cancer diagnosis is 70, according to the American Cancer Society.
Cancer Treatment & Virus Risk
The new coronavirus is believed to be much more contagious than many other pathogens, such as the common cold or seasonal flu, and this is a major reason why most states have restricted the ability of residents to travel freely and why still others are strongly encouraging people to wear protective masks on the rare occasions that they leave their homes
While this is certainly good advice, for victims of lung cancer and mesothelioma, it’s often necessary to leave the house for treatment. In both cases, most people with these types of cancer aren’t diagnosed until the disease has progressed, which makes treatment paramount.
Only about 16% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed early, and mesothelioma’s survival rate for cases diagnosed in early stages is only 20%. About 650,000 cancer patients each year receive treatment at outpatient oncology clinics, and these facilities have implemented strict safety protocols to ensure that patients aren’t unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19, but you should always follow your doctor’s advice, which will take into account your individual disease and treatment.
This pandemic is taking a huge emotional toll on everyone, even those who don’t have cancer, but some studies have suggested that emotional strain and stress can promote tumor growth, and cancer patients who become despondent over the COVID-19 pandemic could be at risk of their pessimistic views extending to their own cancer treatments, causing them to give up prematurely or even stop taking medications. Lung cancer and mesothelioma victims should remember that there are simple and easy steps they can take to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19, and this may help them reduce their stress levels and ensure they stick with their treatment regimens.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), People Who Are at Higher Risk for Severe Illness. (2020.) Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-at-higher-risk.html
Stage 4 Near Death Symptoms of Malignant Mesothelioma. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.mesolawsuitafterdeath.com/mesothelioma/stage-4-near-death-symptoms-of-mesothelioma/
American Cancer Society, Key Statistics About Malignant Mesothelioma. (2019.) Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/about/key-statistics.html
American Cancer Society, Key Statistics for Lung Cancer. (2020.) Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
American Lung Association, Lung Cancer Fact Sheet. (2020.) Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/resource-library/lung-cancer-fact-sheet
Cancer.net, Mesothelioma: Statistics. (2020.) Retrieved from https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/mesothelioma/statistics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients, Information for Health Care Providers. (2019.) Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/preventinfections/providers.htm