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Coronavirus Resources for Mesothelioma Patients

Learn How to Stay Safe Using the Resources Below

An elderly man in a mask sits in a waiting room

What Is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a new disease that threatens millions of human lives. This disease attacks the respiratory system, causing fever, cough, and other flu-like symptoms.

While many patients can recover from the coronavirus without treatment, some patients — including those affected by mesothelioma — can suffer serious complications. Severe coronavirus cases can lead to pneumonia, kidney damage, and death.

Mesothelioma patients and caregivers must take precautions until the risk of infection is lowered.

80% of COVID-19 deaths are patients over 65 years old

Are Mesothelioma Patients at a Higher Risk of COVID-19?

If you have mesothelioma, you may run a greater risk of serious coronavirus complications.

Mesothelioma is extremely aggressive. Fighting cancer depletes your energy, nutrients, and immune system. This worsens your body’s ability to fight the coronavirus. Cancer treatments can also weaken your immune system and increase the risk of coronavirus complications.

Further, the coronavirus is much more deadly in those over the age of 65 — and most mesothelioma patients are seniors. Seniors account for 80% of all coronavirus deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you need help navigating COVID-19 and mesothelioma, our Patient Advocates may be able to answer your questions.

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Coronavirus & Cancer: 3 Tips From Mesothelioma Experts

In response to the pandemic, mesothelioma doctors and advocacy groups like the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) have teamed up to help patients.

These doctors and organizations now provide digital coronavirus-related resources so patients can stay healthy through the pandemic.

Below, learn more about navigating a mesothelioma diagnosis during this time with the top 3 tips from mesothelioma doctors, nurses, and advocates.

Elderly patient on a video call with a doctor

Speak With Your Doctor About Treatment Plans

Mesothelioma specialist Dr. Arthur Frank notes that you should discuss with your doctors any changes to your treatment plans. This includes mapping out which treatments should be continued and which ones should be paused.

Dr. Frank said in a video conference with the ADAO, “ideally, people should continue with their therapies.”

Daily pill organizer

Keep Track of Medications

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many daily routines. As a result, you may have trouble keeping track of everyday activities, such as taking daily medications.

Linda Reinstein, director of the ADAO, recommends using a journal to make sure you take your medications each day.

Elderly man on a video call on his laptop waving

Stay Connected

You may not be able to see close friends or family for extended periods of time due to limits on social gatherings. This can make you feel isolated and lonely, but you can connect with others virtually to feel less alone.

“Human beings are indeed pretty resilient, but we need not go this alone. The common phrase we hear is ‘we’re all in this together.'”

– Dr. Arthur Frank, Mesothelioma Specialist

Thanks to Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, and other video conferencing platforms, it’s easier than ever to connect with people without an in-person visit.

Common Questions About COVID-19

How Does Coronavirus Spread?

The CDC states that COVID-19 is highly contagious and mostly spread from person-to-person contact.

The coronavirus can be spread when:

  • Someone who is infected coughs or sneezes, and respiratory droplets (tiny drops of saliva or mucus) spread
  • Someone within 6 feet of respiratory droplets breathes them in
  • Someone comes into contact with surfaces containing the droplets and then touches their mouth or nose

What Are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?

Common coronavirus symptoms include:

  • Body aches
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Runny nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Coronavirus symptoms usually appear 2-14 days after infection. Symptoms are often mild, and many infected do not display any symptoms. Johns Hopkins University notes that those with mild coronavirus cases recover in a week or two.

However, doctors believe the coronavirus can sometimes overstimulate a patient’s immune system, causing life-threatening symptoms.

Severe coronavirus symptoms may include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing

The CDC urges anyone with extreme coronavirus symptoms to seek emergency care immediately.

Shared Symptoms of Mesothelioma and Coronavirus

Mesothelioma and the coronavirus share many of the same symptoms. For this reason, mesothelioma patients may have trouble distinguishing the symptoms of this virus from those accompanying their cancer.

Shared symptoms of mesothelioma and coronavirus include:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Inability to speak or move
  • Lips or face turning blue

However, there are a few key differences between the symptoms of mesothelioma and those caused by COVID-19.

Coronavirus symptoms develop quickly and dissipate once the body has fought off the disease. On the other hand, mesothelioma symptoms develop gradually and do not go away without aggressive treatment.

Further, not everyone who has the coronavirus will experience symptoms. Those with mesothelioma may not initially have symptoms, but almost all patients develop some symptoms as their cancer worsens.

How Do I Get Tested for Coronavirus?

It is important that mesothelioma patients who develop possible coronavirus symptoms get tested as soon as possible. Coronavirus tests analyze nasal swabs or saliva samples to determine if a patient has the disease.

Coronavirus tests can be done:

  • At drive-thru locations
  • At a walk-in clinic
  • By ordering an at-home testing kit
  • By visiting a doctor

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lists coronavirus testing sites by state. Access the list to learn where you can get tested.

Should Mesothelioma Patients Continue Treatment?

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be worried about going to a hospital or cancer center to receive treatments for your mesothelioma. The good news is that some mesothelioma treatments can still be accessed from home, outpatient clinics, or other settings.

Doctors are taking precautions — such as limiting visitors and using additional protective equipment — to keep patients safe if they need to come in for treatments.

However, there may be restrictions on what mesothelioma treatments you can receive, since the coronavirus has drained many hospitals’ resources. Consult with your doctor to determine which treatment options you can receive during this time.

A surgeon examines a patient's chest X-rays

Mesothelioma Surgery

All hospitals are taking extra steps to ensure that surgery patients do not contract the coronavirus and surgery may be possible at facilities that aren’t at capacity.

For example, the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas has used separate operating rooms and medical teams to perform surgeries. There are also different intensive care units (ICUs) for patients recovering from surgery.

Even if you can’t access surgery for mesothelioma, other treatment options may be available.

“I’ve actually done several [mesothelioma] operations during this COVID epidemic.”
– Taylor Ripley, Mesothelioma Specialist

A nurse sits with a mesothelioma patient as he receives chemotherapy

Mesothelioma Chemotherapy

If you are wary of going to a treatment center, you may be able to receive chemotherapy at home. For example, oral chemotherapy medications can be shipped to your home instead of a pharmacy or hospital.

Your doctor may recommend that you pause your chemotherapy treatments because they can suppress your immune system, putting you at higher risk of coronavirus complications. The benefits and risks of chemotherapy should be weighed with your treatment team.

Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy

Much like chemotherapy, radiation therapy should only be continued on a case-by-case basis.

As of June 2020, doctors recommend that cancer patients delay radiation therapy unless it is being used to extend their lifespan. Even then, alternatives to radiation should be considered.

Participating in Mesothelioma Clinical Trials

Most mesothelioma clinical trials, which study new treatments to find a cure for the cancer, are not currently active.

“In regard to clinical trials, pretty much everything is on hold right now. Patients who are actively on trials, we are not stopping their treatment. However, on a case-by-case basis, the risk versus benefit of coming in and risking exposure is being evaluated.”
– Buerkley Rose, MSN RN, of the University of Chicago’s Mesothelioma Program

Traveling for Mesothelioma Treatment

Discuss with your doctors the benefits and risks of traveling for in-person treatment. It may be safer to avoid hospitals while the pandemic continues.

“As much as patients can get the treatments they need on an outpatient basis, that is the best. And if you can talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner over the phone [or] via video visit, if you can have prescriptions sent in electronically, [if] you can have any treatments done outside of the normal hospital setting, the better at this present time.”
– Dr. Daniel Sterman, Mesothelioma Specialist

Other Tips for Staying Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic

An elderly woman sits at home with a cup of coffee on her couch

Stay Home

Discuss with your doctors the benefits and risks of traveling for in-person treatment. It may be safer to avoid hospitals while the pandemic continues.

An elderly woman washes her hands with a bar of soap

Wash Hands

The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to kill the coronavirus. Alcohol-based sanitizers may also be used to disinfect the hands.

Wash your hands any time you:

  • Come in contact with someone that is sick or may be sick
  • Cough or sneeze
  • Prepare or eat food
  • Take out the garbage
  • Touch animals
  • Touch a surface in a public space (such as a doorknob, toilet, or table)

Never touch your eyes or face unless your hands are washed.

An older man waves at family members during a virtual call on his laptop

Practice Social Distancing

Social distancing (staying 6 feet apart from others) is the best way to keep the coronavirus from spreading.

When those near you talk, sneeze, or cough, you will likely come in contact with the contaminated respiratory droplets that enter the air. Breathing in these droplets may cause you to become infected, but practicing social distancing greatly helps reduce your risk.

The CDC recommends practicing social distancing even if other people seem healthy, as they may carry the virus without symptoms.

A woman puts a surgical mask on the face of an elderly patient

Wear Masks

Wearing a mask can prevent droplets from your mouth from entering the air. This can reduce your risk of passing the virus to others if you do not have any symptoms.

Someone sprays surface with disinfectant

Disinfect Surfaces

It’s much more likely to spread the coronavirus through contact with others than by touching surfaces. The coronavirus can live on surfaces for several hours or even days. The CDC recommends regularly cleaning surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, electronics, and tables.

“If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others.”
– World Health Organization (WHO)

An older man uses a tablet

Find Trustworthy Coronavirus Information

The coronavirus situation is ever-changing, meaning there is a flood of information. It is especially important for a mesothelioma patient, already at greater risk, to find coronavirus updates from trustworthy sources.

Reputable organizations include:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Your local and state health departments
A caregiver assists a mesothelioma patient in a wheelchair

Coronavirus Tips for Mesothelioma Caregivers

For many, caring for someone with mesothelioma is stressful enough without a pandemic to worry about. Thankfully, there are ways that caregivers can help keep their loved ones safe.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that caregivers follow the suggestions put forth by the CDC, including avoiding travel and washing hands.

The ACS also recommends that only one caregiver accompanies a cancer patient who decides to receive treatment at a hospital or cancer center.

Caring for Mesothelioma Patients with COVID-19

Caregivers should take extra precautions if the mesothelioma patient under their care develops the coronavirus.

Here is what the ACS recommends:

  1. Consult with a doctor: Caregivers should call a doctor immediately if a patient has severe symptoms, such as difficulty walking, blue lips, or trouble breathing. These symptoms require emergency care.
  2. Isolate patients from others: Coronavirus patients should be given their own bedroom and bathroom. Caregivers should also ensure the patient’s laundry and bedding are properly washed.
  3. Monitor their symptoms: If the patient worsens, seek immediate medical attention.

Mesothelioma and COVID-19: Next Steps for Patients

The coronavirus has brought much uncertainty to mesothelioma patients, their loved ones, and caregivers. By following the CDC guidelines and consulting with mesothelioma doctors, patients can help reduce their risk and stay as safe as possible.

Our Patient Advocates remain available to help mesothelioma patients navigate life during the coronavirus pandemic. We provide patients and families with up-to-date diagnosis, treatment, and financial compensation information.

Get more resources about mesothelioma in our Free Mesothelioma Guide.