You have mesothelioma cancer. Your treatments are painful, difficult, expensive, and stressful. Now you have to worry about the coronavirus. What should you do now? The fact is that people with cancer are facing delayed surgery and treatments because of the coronavirus advance. (Washingtonpost.com).
How to handle cancer patient treatments with the risk of COVID-19 infection looming is a challenging question that doctors around the globe are discussing. They want to determine how they can best care for patients with mesothelioma and other cancers in an uncertain world where the coronavirus is a danger. After all, a patient with a serious pre-existing health condition such as cancer has a higher risk of complications and death if they get COVID-19. (Lcfamerica.org)
So what is the best way to take care of cancer patients with the risk of the coronavirus in the background?
Coronavirus and Mesothelioma Cancer Risk Factors
According to oncologists, the answer is unclear and unsettling. Testing for COVID-19 in the US is limited, but data from Wuhan, China shos that people with cancer have a higher risk of getting the virus. This is a serious worry for doctors and patients.
Many cancer patients are confused, scared, and angry. The guidelines for virus testing, as well as the continuation of cancer treatments, are still being formulated, and the statistics are inconclusive.
At this time, there are no clear cancer treatment guidelines for doctors to follow regarding COVID-19. The guidelines do not exist yet because the pandemic is new. Which mesothelioma patients should stop, delay or start treatment is not easy to determine.
But some doctors who have experience with the virus have shared their experience on social media. That way, healthcare workers who have not faced the pandemic yet will be better able to treat cancer patients.
Coronavirus and Cancer Roundtable
There was a virus and cancer roundtable held on March 18, 2020, on the social network #OncoAlert. Cancer doctors from Italy, Sweden, Brazil, and the United States shared information and best practices that would have otherwise taken months to gather and share.
According to one oncologist in Seattle, doctors from Italy and from other countries have been generous in sharing their COVID-19 experience with American doctors. They warned them during the roundtable about worrisome health outcomes on a large scale and talked about the best ways to prepare.
Discussions from the roundtable indicated the topics that cancer experts feel the most strongly about at this time of uncertainty. One of the major topics of discussion was why both elderly and cancer patients are at the highest risk for COVID-19 infection: They are older, have immunosuppression, and several serious health problems at once.
Cancer and the Coronavirus
The best way to avoid getting COVID-19 is to socially distance. So, the fewer times a mesothelioma cancer patient leaves their home, the better. For mesothelioma patients who are receiving cancer treatments now, some oncologists recommend screening patients when they come to the hospital to see the doctor and for cancer treatments.
They believe that it is vital for hospitals to begin screening every patient who comes in with any type of respiratory or lung cancer problems. They should be isolated, diagnosed and tested for the virus. Testing for the virus as much as possible for people with symptoms is very important.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology recently released FAQs for doctors about how to reduce COVID-19 infection risks for patients and healthcare workers. (ASCO.org). Also, the American Society of Radiation Oncology released updated guidelines for radiation oncologists and cancer patients who are getting radiation treatments.
Recommendations from these medical societies are helpful for oncologists, but it also should be noted that individual healthcare facilities have a variety of helpful resources, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) for their workers.
Many oncologists on the roundtable said that cancer patients should talk to their healthcare team about what makes the most sense for them in terms of getting treatments and mitigating COVID-19 exposure risk.
Every cancer patient has a unique situation and many cancer treatments are highly time-sensitive. If you have mesothelioma cancer, it is important to consider the tradeoffs: Should you remain at home and reduce your virus exposure risk? Or should you go in and get your mesothelioma cancer treatments?
Cancer Clinical Trials and the Coronavirus
Another challenge for mesothelioma and other cancer patients is what to do about clinical trials that they are in or wish to participate in. Should they go into the hospital and participate in a clinical trial, or is the risk of contracting the virus too high? The best decision here probably is to discuss your individual case with your cancer doctor.
Also, many cancer clinical trials have been stopped or otherwise disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially concerning for mesothelioma patients in late stages who have exhausted other cancer treatment options. Many cancer patients who are in the middle of valuable clinical trials that could be keeping them alive have been or could be stopped.
Get Serious About Social Distancing
The great uncertainty that many cancer patients are facing should remind the healthy general public to be serious about social distancing. The more people socially distance and stay at home, the better the chance that the spread of the virus will be reduced or stop altogether.
While this goes against the American mindset of independence and self-reliance, oncologists say it is critical for people to follow the rules issued by the CDC about social distancing.
Obeying strict measures to avoid crowds and practice good self-hygiene is important to slow the pace of COVID-19 transmission. Doing these things will avoid overwhelming the country’s healthcare system, and will help people in the midst of cancer treatments to avoid contracting the virus.
If you are a mesothelioma patient and are uncertain about how to handle your cancer treatments in these uncertain times, be sure to talk to your healthcare professional right away. They can tell you how to stay safe from COVID-19 while also continuing to treat your early stage mesothelioma cancer or late stage mesothelioma cancer.
There are ways to mitigate the risk of being infected. For example, some healthcare facilities are having cancer patients enter separate elevators to reduce their odds of being infected. Others are giving patients chemotherapy drugs in pill form at home instead of IV therapies at clinics and hospitals. Speak to your doctor about your options today.
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