Preventing Lung cancer & Sars-Cov-2


Respiratory illnesses like lung cancer and viruses like sars-cov-2 are on the rise. According to the IMHE, Global Burden of Disease, approximately 10724 people die every day from respiratory diseases. Respiratory diseases are those diseases that affect the lungs and the respiratory and breathing system of the body.

They are usually caused by smoking too much tobacco, inhaling second-hand smoke or are caused by various forms of air pollution. Some of the common respiratory diseases are asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.

According to the WHO (World Health Organisation) symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • fever
  • cough,
  • body ache and pain,
  • tiredness,
  • sore throat,
  • headaches,
  • loss of taste or smell,
  • rashes,
  • difficulty breathing,
  • chest pain
  • loss of speech

The novel coronavirus 2019,  caused by the sars-cov02 virus is one such disease that severely attacks the respiratory system, and lungs. It also obstructs breathing in severe cases.

Some of the symptoms of lung cancer and the symptoms of sars-cov-2 are somewhat similar, like difficulty in breathing, stubborn cough and severe attack on the lungs and respiratory system. However, sars-cov-2 and lung cancer are vastly different in many ways.


Lung cancer vs Sars-cov-2

As mentioned by the WHO, sars-cov-2 is a virus that causes the novel coronavirus 2019 disease. Sars-cov-2 got its name from SARS 2003. Sars 2003 was a highly contagious and fatal respiratory illness that affected Asia.

It spread during 2002 in China and was recognized in 2003 as SARS – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The virus that caused this fatal illness was discovered to be a strain of the corona virus.

Hence, Sars-cov-2, a second strain of corona virus discovered in 2019, gets its name from the Sars-cov virus discovered in 2003.

Since, some of the symptoms of coronavirus and lung cancer are similar like difficulty in breathing, cough, chest and increased mucus, it can be easily confused. And hence it is essential to get tested and consult your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

One of the significant differences between lung cancer and Sars-cov-2 is that there are different viruses at play in both. Research suggests that in some cases, lung cancer is caused by the HPV (human papilloma virus), whereas the sars-cov-2 virus causes COVID-19.

Lung cancer proceeds gradually and spreads over a period of time. Whereas, in severe cases of coronavirus, the sars-cov-2 virus can spread very fast in a matter of days or hours and kill the person abruptly.

Another significant difference between sars-cov-2 and lung cancer is the symptoms. Even though there are some similarities, the symptoms of coronavirus are much more intense and painful.

This is because the sars-cov-2 virus is much more aggressive than the virus that attacks a person with lung cancer. Paradoxically the mortality rate for severe cases of sars-cov-2 and lung cancer are similar.

According to the world meters, on an average, 5000 people die from corona virus each day, whereas 1.76 million people die from lung cancer each day which is approximately 5000 people each day.

We only say severe cases of corona virus because mild cases of sars-cov-2 always recover. As per the World health organization, out of 10.5 million confirmed cases, 5.37 people have fully recovered, and 512k people have expired, which confirms that more people are recovering from sars-cov-2 than they are dying.


Who is more prone to SARS-COV-2?


CDC (centers for diseases prevention and control) confirms that people who have lung cancer are more prone to the sars-cov-2 virus, which causes the disease of the corona virus.

Dr Leslie Waltke shares that immune-suppressed people, have a heart or lung disease, have diabetes, have high blood pressure, and people over the age of 60 are more prone to catch the corona virus.

She reassures us that just because you have fully recovered from lung cancer. A history of lung cancer doesn’t necessarily put you at a higher risk of contracting the sars-cov-2 virus. It also doesn’t mean that you will get severely ill if you do end up contracting the virus.

She says that if you have a history of lung cancer, there are good chances that your case of sars-cov-2 is mild and it will heal smoothly.

Dr Leslie Waltke, says, however, if you presently have lung cancer and are immunosuppressed due to chemotherapy and drugs, there are higher chances of you contracting the sars-cov-2 virus and it affecting your health intensely.

She further explains that if you have cancer than directly affects your immune system like multiple myeloma, lymphoma or leukaemia, getting covid-19 would be very dangerous for you.

If you are currently in cancer treatment, have documented immunosuppression and have questions regarding this, please consult with your oncologist or doctor to answer your question and receive proper guidance.


What can lung cancer patients do to protect themselves?

Dr David Kaufman, the director of ICU at NYU, suggests that many hospitals are limiting the number of cancer patients that can visit the hospital at a given time. He also proposes to limit and postpone cancer treatments that suppress your immune system.

Dr Stiles says that lung cancer patients should delay or skip some of the chemotherapy immunosuppressing treatments to protect themselves from sars-cov-2. She suggests to check with your doctor and decide what is best for you and your circumstance.

Dr Stephen Liu, also suggests having video consultations with your oncologists whenever possible instead of going to the hospital and putting yourself at unnecessary risks

On a basic level, lung cancer patients need to do what everyone else is doing and follow the CDC and WHO guideline to stay safe and healthy. Dr Waltke suggests to do the following:

  • Stay home and avoid going to crowded places, and if you do go out, maintain a distance of six feet.
  • She also suggests to wear a mask anytime you go outside and for lung cancer patients even when you are at home, as you are more at risk to contract COVID-19 even from people at your home.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds
  • She explains that social distancing and wearing masks is not done from fear but for your protection. And that the greatest tool you have to protect yourself is you and your behaviours.
  • She also encourages you to eat more alkaline foods, get enough exercise, get enough sun and fresh air, stay connected and positive.