The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has infected millions of Americans and is on track to infect many more. The virus is highly contagious and has proven deadly for many patients, particularly those with underlying conditions that heighten their risk. Mesothelioma, like many forms of cancer, weakens a patient’s immune system and can make them more susceptible to suffering severe complications from viruses, such as COVID-19.
Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly cancer affecting the lining of the lungs, chest and, at times, the abdominal cavity. It is caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that can be inhaled or ingested if particles become airborne. While mesothelioma often mimics the symptoms of lung cancer, it is resistant to many common cancer therapies and is difficult to treat. COVID-19 has quickly spread across the globe, killing hundreds of thousands, leaving victims with lasting complications. The virus affects each person differently; most patients experience flu-like symptoms, while some may not have any symptoms at all.
While the causes of COVID-19 and mesothelioma are very different, they share some similarities. Patients suffering from either condition may experience some of the same symptoms, including fever, persistent cough, sore throat, and chest pain or shortness of breath. Patients suffering from malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, which targets the lining of the abdomen, may also experience decreased appetite, digestive issues, weight loss, and fatigue, which have been seen in some COVID-19 cases as well. COVID-19 patients may also suffer from loss of taste or smell, while mesothelioma patients may experience a build-up of fluid in affected areas. A person can expect to see COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure, while mesothelioma has a much longer latency period.
What are the Risks for Mesothelioma Patients?
Mesothelioma patients face unique risks when it comes to COVID-19. Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer, often leaving patients with a short life expectancy once they receive a diagnosis. Cancer has a devastating effect on the body and its systems, particularly the immune system, as the body tries to fight the disease. There are many types of cancer treatments that can help in this fight, but patients undergoing these treatments are further compromising their immune systems. COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person, and an immunocompromised mesothelioma patient must be especially careful to avoid exposure. Mesothelioma patients who contract COVID-19 are less capable of fighting off the disease and are more likely to experience severe complications.
Mesothelioma compromises the respiratory system by attacking the lining of the lungs and thoracic cavity, which is the prime target of COVID-19. Mesothelioma patients who become infected with COVID-19 may be at an increased risk for pneumonia and damage to the lungs. COVID-19 causes a build-up of fluid and cellular waste in the lining of the air sacs and pleura, which mesothelioma may have already damaged. It may be more difficult for mesothelioma patients to recover from these complications as the two diseases attack the same tissues.
Age is also a consideration for mesothelioma patients concerned about the pandemic. Due to its long latency period, mesothelioma does not fully manifest until later in life. COVID-19 has proven especially deadly for patients over the age of 65; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 80 percent of COVID-19 fatalities have been senior citizens.
Is Treatment Being Impacted?
While all Americans are advised to limit non-essential outings and interactions with people outside of their household, this is even more important for mesothelioma patients. Masks, social distancing, and frequent hand washing help curb the spread of the virus, but any level of exposure could be potentially deadly for someone who is already suffering from mesothelioma. Self-isolating is the best way to stay safe, but this may create difficulties for some mesothelioma patients, especially those currently undergoing treatment.
Many mesothelioma patients undergo chemotherapy, surgery, or a combination of the two to combat the disease. The COVID-19 pandemic may make it more challenging for patients to attend appointments or access their medications. Health care facilities in many areas are overwhelmed with caring for COVID-19 patients, which can result in procedures being delayed and affect the quality of treatment that patients receive. Mesothelioma patients are canceling appointments out of fear of going to a doctor’s office or hospital where they might be exposed to the virus. Similarly, mesothelioma patients who have been exposed to COVID-19 may have to wait until they are properly diagnosed and treated before their cancer treatment can resume. This can set patients back and hinder their chances of survival.
Early diagnosis is key to effectively treating mesothelioma; the disease can grow silently for decades before patients experience any symptoms, by which time it could be too late for therapies to make an impact. It is recommended that anyone experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma get checked for the disease as soon as possible, especially if they were exposed to asbestos at some point. This is challenging in the current climate, as people try to limit their travel and health care facilities pose additional risks. Patients at risk for mesothelioma may put off critical tests out of fear of contracting COVID-19, even though this increases the likelihood of fatal mesothelioma complications. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of at-home testing kits, which may be a resource for mesothelioma patients who suspect they have been exposed to COVID-19.
There are steps mesothelioma patients can take to limit their risk, in addition to self-isolating as much as possible. Patients should wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in between washes. Sanitizing wipes should be used to clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, sinks, and cell phones, especially if the patient shares a living space with someone else. If mesothelioma patients need to go out, they should wear a mask to securely cover their nose and mouth and keep as much distance as they can from others. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help limit how much the immune system is compromised. It is also flu season, so mesothelioma patients should consult with their doctor to find out if it is safe to get a vaccine.
If a mesothelioma patient suspects they have COVID-19, they should contact their doctor immediately. Depending on the severity of their symptoms, they may be able to self-treat at home; patients experiencing chest tightness, difficulty breathing, confusion, or blue or purple lips or skin should go to a hospital for emergency care. Immunocompromised patients may need to quarantine longer than others to avoid the risk of passing on the disease.
Philadelphia Mesothelioma Lawyers at Shein Law advocate for Victims of Asbestos Exposure
If you or a loved one is suffering from mesothelioma, call the Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Shein Law. We will thoroughly review the facts of your case to determine who is at fault for your asbestos exposure and hold them accountable. We will work tirelessly to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled so that you can focus on your treatment and your safety. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and New Jersey, we help asbestos exposure victims and their families throughout the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Call 877-743-4652 or contact us online for an initial consultation today.