Battling lung cancer amid COVID-19 outbreak in South Carolina

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Gregory A. Cade is the principal attorney at Environmental Litigation Group P.C, where he dedicates his time to helping victims of occupational toxic exposure who have been diagnosed with cancer or other serious diseases.

As the global COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread at a rapid rate creating a substantial challenge for everyone, the risk of having a severe coronavirus infection seems to be even higher in people living with cancer, particularly that which involves the lungs. Their immunocompromised state – either from cancer or the anti-tumor treatments they receive – makes them an especially vulnerable group during this public health crisis.

During these times of the pandemic, several aspects regarding the infection and its course in a patient with cancer are less known. As a result, the delivery of cancer care simply needs a balance between the patient’s risk of exposure and the need for an effective treatment for cancer. People with lung cancer, particularly those with decreased lung function and cardiopulmonary comorbidity, are at a heightened risk of contracting coronavirus and developing serious complications. The mortality rate from COVID-19 may be higher among lung cancer patients as acute respiratory distress is one of its common manifestations. 

Lung Cancer Incidence Rate is Higher in South Carolina

While it is found that lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and also a leading cause of cancer-related death in the state of South Carolina, it has been ranked 16th in the United States for high lung cancer incidence and 14th for lung cancer mortality rate. Furthermore, men are twice as likely to develop lung cancer and die because of it as compared to women in South Carolina. Almost 18% of all the lung cancer cases are diagnosed in their earliest stage in South Carolina and Charleston County is one amongst the counties where the highest percentage of early-stage lung cancers are detected.

COVID-19 vulnerability of people with Lung Cancer

People battling lung cancer fall into a priority group that should consider prevention of COVID-19 as an important matter. As a group who generally are of advanced age and with an increased risk of the relative immunosuppressed state due to underlying cancer and its treatment, people with lung cancer seem to have a poor prognosis compared to the other people. Additionally, people living with lung cancer may also suffer from other comorbid conditions such as preexisting lung disease and smoking history.

Most importantly, those people battling lung cancer often have been traced back to their workplace exposure to hazardous agents used at various industrial sites. Back in the 1980s, people have been exposed to various respiratory toxins at work due to insufficient or no protective measures and they are now being diagnosed with chronic respiratory diseases including lung cancer. They would generally develop recurrent respiratory infections, and during this COVID-19 outbreak, it is even more important for them to avoid exposure to the new virus.