The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, originally discovered in Wuhan, China, has now spread to all fifty states. This infection may cause life-threatening respiratory complications.
The swift spread and serious symptoms of COVID-19 may concern many mesothelioma patients. They may wonder exactly how COVID-19 will affect them and their mesothelioma treatment options. Will it affect chemotherapy, radiation therapy or other cancer treatments? Do cancer patients need to take extra precautions against coronavirus?
1: Mesothelioma Cancer Patients May Be at Higher Risk for Serious Coronavirus Complications
Certain preexisting conditions may lead to more serious COVID-19 infections. Lung conditions, like mesothelioma and lung cancer, fall into this category. Thus, mesothelioma patients may develop more life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19 than otherwise healthy people. This means mesothelioma patients are considered at-risk individuals.
Even patients in remission may be at higher risk for serious coronavirus complications. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can depress the immune system. Weak immune systems have a difficult time fighting off any infection, including COVID-19.
Patients who recently completed chemotherapy or radiation may still have weakened immune systems. Thus, they may experience serious complications from COVID-19.
But there is good news. Even patients at risk of serious coronavirus complications can take steps to prevent infection.
2: Mesothelioma Patients and Survivors Can Take Simple Steps to Help Prevent Coronavirus Infection
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a list of helpful tips. Following these guidelines can help minimize risk of coronavirus infection:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Maintain social distance. Avoid gatherings. Only leave the house for essentials like food and prescriptions. And keep at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others at all times.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Regularly clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and busy countertops.
- Stay home as much as possible.
In addition to CDC recommendations, The Moffitt Cancer Center had the following recommendations:
- Get a flu shot if you haven’t already.
- Avoid public transportation if at all possible.
- If you must use public transportation, maintain social distance. Keep as much space between you and others as possible. Also follow CDC guidelines for handwashing and infection prevention.
- Dry Cough
- Shortness of Breath
New information shows that many people with coronavirus do not show symptoms at all. This means social distancing, even from people who seem well, could prevent virus transmission. Any person with risk factors for serious coronavirus infection (e.g., cancer patients or survivors) should heed these recommendations. However, anyone currently undergoing cancer treatment should avoid individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19.
Contact a physician immediately if you believe you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Please note that malignant mesothelioma and COVID-19 share some symptoms. A physician can help you determine which is causing your symptoms.
3: Mesothelioma Treatment Plans May Be Delayed Due to Coronavirus
Hospitals around the country are preparing for a rising wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations. As such, centers have postponed or canceled many scheduled procedures. The cancer centers we surveyed are currently providing cancer treatment. But the schedule may shift to accommodate the demands of coronavirus treatment.
Treatment coordinators can help patients understand any changes to their treatment plan. Please keep in mind that some schedule changes may be necessary. These changes help minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure during treatment.
Treatment centers want to prevent the spread of coronavirus to vulnerable cancer patients. As such, these centers have modified their visitor policies. The most common changes thus far have been:
- Decreasing the number of visitors allowed per patient
- Restricting visitation hours
- Canceling all volunteer activities
- Proactively screening all healthcare providers for symptoms
- Screening all visitors for symptoms
- Decreasing the number of entrances to the cancer center
Before attending any scheduled appointments, patients should check in with their treatment center. This can help patients prepare for any protocol changes. Patients can find such changes on the center’s website or by speaking to a treatment coordinator. You can find information on the centers we surveyed in the table below.
|COVID-19 Information from Top Cancer Centers|
|Cancer Center||COVID-19 Information|
|Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center||Coronavirus Information
Information for Patients at High Risk of Coronavirus Complications
|Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center||COVID-19 Response|
|H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute||Protecting Against Coronavirus|
|Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center||Coronavirus Guidelines for All Patients and Visitors|
|Massachusetts General Hospital||COVID-19 Latest Updates|
|The Mayo Clinic||Rochester Location COVID-19 Guidance
Florida Location COVID-19 Guidance
Arizona Location COVID-19 Guidance
|MD Anderson Cancer Center||Coronavirus Precautions|
|Memorial Sloan-Kettering||Novel Coronavirus Precautions|
|Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center||Coronavirus Information|
|The University of Pittsburgh Hillman Cancer Center||Facts About COVID-19|
Note: Patients may be concerned about the risk of infection from chemotherapy or other treatments sourced in COVID-19-affected countries. According to the Moffitt Cancer Center, these treatments are just as safe as they were before the coronavirus pandemic.
4: Mesothelioma Patients Can Plan Ahead to Minimize the Effects of Coronavirus
In addition to the rules previously mentioned, the CDC recommends at-risk patients plan ahead for potentially lengthy social distancing.
Choose a room in your home to designate as a sick room. If a household member becomes ill, this will help control the spread within the house.
Keep a two-week supply of essentials on hand. This should include all medications, sanitary supplies and food staples.
*If you’re having trouble finding groceries, try shopping at one of the stores in the table below. They offer exclusive shopping for individuals at higher risk of COVID-19 infection.
Establish dependable communication channels with family, friends and neighbors.
Stores Offering Hours for Vulnerable Individuals
|Whole Foods||One hour before open||Age 60+|
|Dollar General||First hour of normal business hours||Senior shoppers|
|Target||First hour of shopping on Wednesdays||The elderly and those with underlying health conditions|
|Walmart||One hour before open on Tuesdays||Age 60+|
|Stop & Shop||6 – 7:30 a.m. daily||Age 60+ and those with underlying health conditions|
|Fairway Market||8 – 9 a.m. Monday – Saturday||Age 65+ and those with underlying health conditions|
|The Fresh Market||8 – 9 a.m. Monday – Friday||Seniors and those with underlying health conditions|
|Northgate Gonzales Market||7 – 8 a.m. daily||Seniors and customers with disabilities|
5: Everyone Should Take Care of Themselves While Social Distancing
Mesothelioma alone creates a significant amount of stress. An unprecedented global pandemic adds even more stress for mesothelioma patients. In this situation, patients and caregivers can take steps to deal with stress in healthy ways. (Source: CDC.gov)
Stay in Touch
Zoom Meetings, Facetime, Google Hangouts and Skype all offer free video calling services. You can also have a virtual movie-watching party. The Netflix Party Chrome extension allows groups to remotely watch movies simultaneously. It also lets you chat with your movie-watching family or friends.
Last but certainly not least, you can schedule a regular phone call to check-in with loved ones.
Take Breaks from the News
Hearing about a pandemic nonstop can be overwhelming. Take time to unplug and take your focus away from the news and social media. When you feel overwhelmed, take a mental break. For example, to recenter, you can count five things you can see and five things you can hear.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
Try to stay as physically active as possible while maintaining safe social distance. Go for a walk or do a yoga video. Meditate. Get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
Get Information from Credible Sources
You can find accurate information on the COVID-19 pandemic from the sources below.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)