As concern about the novel coronavirus spreads around the world, there could be an unexpected upside to social distancing for mesothelioma patients.
Social distancing is the recommendation that people not gather in larger groups. Even in smaller settings, the CDC recommends that people stay at least six feet apart from one another to avoid spreading the virus.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by the virus SARS-CoV2. Because humans have not yet built up immunity to SARS-CoV2, it is more likely to make them sick. Mesothelioma patients may have even lower resistance to disease. This is why social distancing for mesothelioma patients is especially important.
As people become more aware of the threat to themselves at others, they are less likely to spread disease of any kind to at-risk people.
Why Mesothelioma Patients are at Special Risk
People with pleural mesothelioma are vulnerable to any illness that could put a strain on their immune system or their respiratory system.
Pleural mesothelioma grows on the membrane around the lungs. Over time, the cancer and the fluid buildup it causes can make it harder to breathe. A respiratory illness like COVID-19 can make this even worse.
Chemotherapy is the main treatment for mesothelioma. But chemotherapy is also the treatment most likely to damage the immune system. People who have had chemotherapy in the last three months or those undergoing immunotherapy are less likely to be able to fight off a viral disease.
But COVID-19 is not the only threat to mesothelioma patients. Even a cold virus or the flu can quickly become serious in people fighting mesothelioma. Social distancing for mesothelioma patients means they are less likely to encounter COVID-19 or any other germ that could make them sicker.
Helping Patients Manage Social Distancing
One downside of social distancing for mesothelioma patients is isolation. Having a cancer like mesothelioma can be isolating in the best of times. Previous studies have suggested that mesothelioma patients who feel isolated have worse outcomes than those who feel supported.
Caregivers, patients, and loved ones who visit should follow CDC guidelines for hand washing at least 20 seconds with hot water. Patients who have to leave home should do the same. Handbags and other surfaces that could harbor viruses should also stay well away from cancer patients.
Online visits and remote cancer support groups offer a safer way for people with mesothelioma to stay connected during this time.
A 2017 article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology recounted the positive impact of the Mesothelioma Survivor Project. The Project was a six-seek program that provided online and telephone support for mesothelioma patients and their carers.
Social distancing for mesothelioma patients and other sick people is necessary right now. But by minimizing the spread of all kinds of germs, it may also help keep patients healthier for longer.
If you or a loved one is battling mesothelioma and has to stay at home, we recommend Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers by mesothelioma survivor Paul Kraus. You can pick up a free copy here.
“Why People with Cancer are More Likely to Get Infections”, American Cancer Society websitte, https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/low-blood-counts/infections/why-people-with-cancer-are-at-risk.html
“Common Questions About the New Coronavirus Outbreak”, March 12, 2020, American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/common-questions-about-the-new-coronavirus-outbreak.html
If You Are at Higher Risk, CDC Website, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html