The novel coronavirus, commonly called COVID-19, primarily affects breathing as it is a respiratory disease. But specifically, how does COVID-19 affect lung cancer patients?
Since there is currently no vaccine or treatment directly targeted for COVID-19, people with lung cancer need to be particularly aware of guidelines for protection strategies against the disease by following CDC directions. There are many causes of lung cancer, but exposure to asbestos is a major cause. Asbestos can also lead to the fatal lung disease, malignant mesothelioma.
How does COVID-19 affect lung cancer patients?
Since people with lung cancer are in one of the more high-risk groups for acquiring COVID-19, know the basics of prevention:
• Practice social distancing – Stay home as much as possible. If outside your home, wear masks and gloves, wash your hands with soap and water before and after any encounter with others or with in-store products for at least 20 seconds, and maintain a minimum of six feet between yourself and others. This includes during doctor visits and other medical appointments.
• Get tested – Since lung cancer classifies as high-risk, get tested if there are new symptoms beyond normal. Others who fall into this category are adults over 65, adults with other serious diseases, and those who are taking chemotherapy drugs or have other immunity issues. Symptoms include a dry cough, trouble breathing, and a temperature of 100.4 or over.
• Speak with a doctor – In all cases, if you or a loved one has lung disease, it is highly recommended to speak with their doctors to determine any guidelines the doctor may suggest for your specific situation. Here you can also access and print an informative handout produced by the Lung Cancer Research Foundation.
Should I really be concerned?
In a word, yes. Currently, the United States leads the world in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. However, the number may be much greater as many people experience COVID-19 with no symptoms. That doesn’t mean they can’t pass the virus on to others, so social distancing is extremely important – especially for high-risk individuals.
Remember, there is no treatment geared specifically for COVID-19 and there is no preventative vaccine. The only protection is squarely on each individual to do their best to follow all CDC guidelines.
What drugs are being used?
Some medications have shown promise but there are currently no COVID-19 specific drugs approved through a completed study.
Vaccines virtually eliminated smallpox and polio in past decades. Scientists are currently working toward developing vaccines that could end, or lessen the effects of, coronaviruses as well. In this month, there are almost 80 vaccine development initiatives ongoing. Best case timeline for vaccine development is 18 months.
Are lung cancer patients more susceptible to COVID-19?
While patients with lung cancer do not appear to be more likely to get COVID-19, if they do acquire the disease, complications are more likely. If a patient is undergoing immunosuppressive treatment, such as chemotherapy, their immune system may not be able to fight it off, however. Cancer patients, overall, should be more vigilant about all the precautions. Following all guidelines provides the best chance of avoiding contraction of COVID-19.