Answers from The National Cancer Institute and The American Cancer Society

If I have mesothelioma, am I at higher risk of getting or dying from COVID-19?

If you have mesothelioma and are getting treatments such as Alimta (Pemetrexed) and Carboplatin (or Cisplatin) or any other chemotherapy, you need to be careful.  

Chemo drugs can weaken your immune system and may increase your risk of any infection, including Corona Virus (COVID-19). During chemotherapy, there will be times in your treatment cycle when you are at increased risk of infection. People with mesothelioma (and other cancers) are at higher risk of developing more serious complications from contagious illnesses such as COVID-19.

What to do? Talk to your doctor about your concerns.  Your doctor can advise you on the best course of action.

I have mesothelioma, how can I protect myself from Corona Virus?

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Precautions for avoiding COVID-19 are the same as for other contagious respiratory illnesses, such as influenza (flu) and include:  

  • avoiding close contact with people who are sick; 
  • covering cough and sneeze; 
  • avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; 
  • and washing your hands with soap and water.

In addition:

  • Avoid large social gatherings and close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid unnecessary person-to-person contact, such as handshakes
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; and before and after coming in contact with others
  • Stay home as much as possible

Contact your doctor if you have common COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.

Seek immediate medical attention for yourself or a family member for severe symptoms associated with the Corona Virus.

I have mesothelioma and need various medications, what should I do?

Make sure you have access to several weeks of medication and supplies in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time.  Talk to your doctor.

In addition, mesothelioma patients should take additional steps to protect themselves and adapt to potential unexpected changes in their treatment plans, including:

  • Use home delivery or a pharmacy drive-thru if available.
  • Check before coming in for scheduled visits at your doctor’s office or cancer center. In response to guidance from the CDC, oncology and other medical practices are restricting non-urgent appointments.
  • Ask about telehealth visits as an option. Many health care providers are now turning to telemedicine whenever possible. This is commonly the preferred option for non-emergency care amid the COVID-19 pandemic, to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Discuss with your physician whether tests like follow-up CT scans can be delayed. 

I have mesothelioma and I receive cancer treatment at a medical facility. What should I do about getting my treatments?

If you are receiving treatment for your cancer, please call your health care provider before going to your next treatment appointment and follow their guidance. As health care systems adjust their activities to address COVID-19, doctors treating cancer patients may also have to change when and how cancer treatment and follow-up visits are carried out. The risk of missing a cancer treatment or medical appointment must be weighed against the possibility of exposing a patient to infection.

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Some cancer treatments can be safely delayed, while others cannot. Some routine follow-up visits may be safely delayed or conducted through telemedicine. If you take oral cancer drugs, you may be able to have prescribed treatments sent directly to you, so you don’t have to go to a pharmacy. A hospital or other medical facility may ask you to go to a specific clinic, away from those treating people sick with Corona Virus.

The Corona Virus situation is changing daily, with states and cities making changes in how they are handling quarantine and critical health care, so check with your provider as needed.

I participate in a clinical trial at a medical facility. What should I do?

If you are in a mesothelioma clinical trial, please call your clinical trial research team and follow their guidance. Physicians and scientists at NCI are working with doctors and health care staff who carry out NCI-sponsored clinical trials across the United States to implement specific measures within our clinical trials networks that will address the current challenges of providing care to patients enrolled in clinical trials. 

The health of each clinical trial patient is the institute’s most important concern, and NCI is flexible about how clinical trial treatments can be completed and when tests and assessments must be done.

Will my mesothelioma treatments be affected by everything that’s going on now?

The CDC is now recommending that health care facilities and doctors prioritize urgent and emergency visits and procedures for the coming several weeks.

“We’re headed for a time when there will be significant disruptions in the care of patients with cancer,” says Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society. “For some it may mean a delay in having elective surgery. For others it may be delaying preventive care or adjuvant chemotherapy that’s meant to keep cancer from returning.” You may need to reschedule appointments.

Lichtenfeld says cancer care teams are going to do to the best they can to deliver care to those most in need. However, even in those circumstances, it won’t be life as usual. 

“It will require patience on everyone’s part as we go through this pandemic,” Lichtenfeld adds. “It is important to maintain contact with your cancer care team to determine the best course of action for you. This may involve non-urgent follow up visits or talking to your care team virtually and not physically going to the clinic. So, it’s important to know who to call to reach your cancer care team to find out how to proceed.”

Lichtenfeld adds, “These circumstances will take months to resolve, and even then, we will continue to have changes in the way cancer patients receive their treatment.”

How can I use my time effectively if I have to stay at home?

General medical information adapted from:

Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know from the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society Common Questions About the New Coronavirus Outbreak