Early diagnosis is the key to longer survival and higher quality of life for patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. But according to a recently conducted study published as a research letter in JAMA Network Open, there has been a decrease of almost 50% in new diagnoses of six types of cancer in the United States. Mesothelioma specialists worry that the same pattern being seen in those more common cancers is also occurring among those at risk for the rare asbestos-related disease.
Have COVID-19 Lockdowns Led to Fewer Mesothelioma Patients Being Diagnosed?
There have been countless ways that the global pandemic has impacted mesothelioma patients. They are seeking medical guidance via telemedicine applications rather than coming in for appointments, missing vital chemotherapy sessions and delaying litigation that provides much-needed compensation to help them pay for their medical treatments. The new study suggests that the coronavirus may also be preventing those at risk for the disease from being diagnosed at all.
The cross-sectional study was conducted by Harvey Kaufman, MD, of Quest Diagnostics in Secaucus, New Jersey and colleagues. The group looked at the mean weekly number of new cases of breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, gastric and esophageal cancers during a baseline period from January 2019 to February 2020 and compared it to the period from March 1st through April 18th of 2020. They found a decrease of 46.4 percent overall, whihch has raised concerns that social distancing measures have put those who are at high risk for cancers of all types at even greater danger.
Delayed Mesothelioma Diagnosis Results in Poor Prognosis
Like the researchers who undertook this study and health professionals around the world, mesothelioma specialists are concerned that delays in diagnosis will have a significant and harmful impact on patients. The longer a person with a history of exposure to asbestos waits to be diagnosed, the more their cancer can spread. The more advanced a patient’s disease is at the time of diagnosis, the shorter their survival time is likely to be.
Commenting on the need to balance concerns over the spread of COVID-19 and the needs of those at risk for cancers like mesothelioma, Chief Medical Officer Richard L. Schilsky, MD. of the American Society of Clinical Oncology said that while postponing routine screenings like mammograms makes sense, that type of delay should not be applied to those at risk. “Those are decisions that have to be weighed between the doctor and the patient.”
If you are at risk for malignant mesothelioma and you believe you are beginning to display symptoms, it is important that you seek medical guidance as soon as possible. For assistance in doing so safely, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.