Lung Cancer Patients Face Delays in Tumor Testing, Treatment, Surgeries, Clinical Trials during COVID-19 Pandemic

Patient safety and communication with their healthcare team is key, including telehealth

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a serious impact on the lives of all Americans, but lung cancer patients, caregivers and their loved ones may have an especially difficult experience. Jacob Sands, M.D., oncologist and volunteer medical spokesperson from the American Lung Association, offers his perspective on what patients might expect, as well as tips and guidance.

Your cancer history and risk
Cancer patients are among those at high risk of the most serious impacts of COVID-19 because their immune systems are often weakened by cancer and its treatments. If you think you might be getting sick, contact your healthcare provider. While most people who were treated for cancer years ago are likely to have normal immune function, each person is different. It’s important for all lung cancer patients and survivors – both those in treatment and not – to talk with a doctor who understands their situation and medical history.

Delays, disruptions and communication
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recommended delaying “elective” surgeries, non-essential medical and surgical procedures during the pandemic. This is expected to include biopsies, lung cancer surgery, treatment infusions, radiation therapy, clinical trials and lung cancer screening. In addition, CDC is also recommending that healthcare facilities and doctors prioritize urgent and emergency visits and procedures for the coming several weeks, which may cause additional disruptions. Speak with your healthcare provider to create an individualized action plan based on your unique situation.

“There is simply no other way to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has created enormous stress for cancer patients, especially lung cancer patients,” Sands said. “I know that every oncologist is going to try and to do their best to make sure their lung cancer patients stay safe while still addressing their cancer. This may mean there are changes to treatment and interaction including moving to virtual visits, spacing out infusions or even adjusting treatment to something with less risk of side effects.”

Dr. Sands recommends that patients be prepared to reschedule appointments and treatments, and encourages them to stay in close contact with their healthcare provider about their treatment plan.

Stay safe and healthy, together
It’s important for everyone to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, but it’s especially important for lung cancer patients and their caregivers to take precautions to lower their risk of getting the virus. Thorough handwashing, social isolation and staying at home are critical. If possible, get your groceries and medications delivered or have a family member or neighbor pick them up for you. If you must go out, CDC now recommends everyone wear a mask. Many grocery stores are also doing special hours for people at high risk before the store opens for the general public.

“You may be seeking a sense of normalcy but making adjustments to daily life given the risks of COVID-19 is essential to your health. Support from caregivers and loved ones is critical during any patient journey, but it might look just a bit different now,” said Dr. Sands. “You may need to have food dropped off at the front door rather than in the kitchen. You may ask your family to check in over the phone or online rather than in person. The most important thing is to communicate how you’re feeling and make a plan to ensure you can get what you need while staying safe.”

We should also remember that while most Americans are staying at home and self-isolating, no one is alone. Dr. Sands recommends the following support and resources for lung cancer patients and their caregivers from the American Lung Association:

  • Join the American Lung Association’s free online support communities: The Lung Association is proud to champion a free online support community for lung cancer patients and their caregivers, offering peer-to-peer support. You can start or respond to threads on the communities, upload photos and search for specific topics to find other members who share the same interests.
  • Get an Online Mentor: The Lung Association has partnered with Imerman Angels to match mentors with those facing lung cancer. You can sign up to seek support from someone who has been in your shoes or you can sign up to become a mentor and offer support to another person facing lung cancer. 
  • Call the American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine: Experienced and knowledgeable healthcare professionals are ready to assist you with questions you have about COVID-19 or any other lung health questions in over 250 languages at 1-800-LUNG-USA or submit a question online.

For more information on lung health, lung cancer and COVID-19, visit Journalists seeking to schedule an interview with a lung health expert may contact Stephanie Goldina at [email protected] or 312-801-7629.

For more information, contact:

Elizabeth Cook
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