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Patients with bladder cancer at high risk of contracting COVID-19

By Shaniqua Williams

Posted on April 01st, 2020

The world is currently facing perhaps the worst crisis since WW2, the COVID-19 pandemic. Drastic changes in medical priorities are being enforced, affecting all branches of the medical system and cancer patients seem to be affected as well.

In the U.S., bladder cancer is the 4th most common type of cancer in men and the 9th in women, with an estimated 70.980 new cases annually. Various studies have concluded that men seem to be more affected by it than women, with the incidence increasing with age, the average being 69 years for men and 71 for women. This puts bladder cancer patients in the most vulnerable category for contracting COVID-19 and, depending on the stage of their disease can even lead to the development of severe complications. This is why it's extremely important that bladder cancer patients protect themselves during this pandemic and stay informed.

Occupational risks for developing bladder cancer

Risk factor means anything that affects someone's chances of getting a disease like cancer. But having a risk factor doesn't automatically mean you will end up developing a disease. It's still important to know the risk factors as they can help doctors establish the correct diagnosis which if discovered early can be curable.

The link between occupational toxic exposure and bladder cancer has been confirmed by numerous studies and medical research, with chemicals like benzidine and beta-naphthylamine, PFAS chemicals found in fire fighting foam and asbestos fibers being considered the highest risk factors for potentially developing bladder cancer. This happens because the body flushes out asbestos fibers and other toxic agents through the urinary system, which facilitates the development of malignant tumors inside the bladder, resulting in bladder cancer. In the case of asbestos exposure, there is also the possibility that some ingested fibers remain inside the bladder after urine expulsion or enter it by traveling through the circulatory system. Over the years, these toxic agents can cause inflammation and tissue scarring which can lead to bladder cancer.

Amongst the occupations with the highest risk of developing bladder cancer are:

It is very important that patients with a history of toxic exposure regularly check up on their health and disclose this information to their doctors, as misdiagnosis is fairly common. It can be often mistaken for less severe conditions, such as urinary tract infections, passing a kidney or bladder stone, overactive bladder, or renal cell carcinoma.

COVID-19 risks for bladder cancer patients and protection measures

During this time, it's extremely important that patients and caregivers take all the necessary precautions to avoid getting infected with COVID-19. While a diagnosis of bladder cancer does not actively increase the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, there are still several concerns that need to be addressed. Bladder cancer by itself, being a solid tumor does not directly affect the immune system but undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy can severely affect your white blood cell count, which puts the body in a very vulnerable position, susceptible to contracting viral infections.

There is also a high risk for patients undergoing immunotherapy, as this treatment might lead to autoimmune diseases as a side effect. Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to produce antibodies that are attacking normal tissue which in the case of viral infection could even lead to organ failure as the body would be too weak to fight.

The age might also be a factor that contributes to the vulnerability of bladder cancer patients, as COVID-19 seems to have a more severe effect on older patients, and most bladder cancer patients are over the age of 65. Recent surgery is also a risk factor as the body is already fighting to heal and cannot handle an infection.

Precaution is the most important measure that can be taken at this moment in order to avoid contracting COVID-19. Patients and caretakers need to respect the indications given by health officials, including isolation and social distancing as well as regularly washing your hands and avoid touching the eyes, nose, and lips. Patients need to call their doctors before actually going to the clinic or hospital, as this can represent a huge risk of infection. There is a possibility that doctors may prioritize patients on curative therapy and reduce visits for patients in metastatic stages. Patients might also be advised to postpone treatment or surgery.

Legal help for the victims of occupational asbestos exposure

With over 25 years of experience in pursuing compensation for the victims of asbestos exposure, our attorneys will help you file a claim with asbestos trust funds and, if you are a veteran, with the VA as well. Although the legal process is complex, your involvement will be minimal, as you will only have to provide your lawyer with your employment or military records and with your medical records, which will be used as proof to support your claim. It is important to know that if you have bladder cancer and a history of asbestos exposure, asbestos fibers need to be present in your lungs to qualify for compensation. Our medical specialists will offer you a free of charge asbestos screening to determine whether you have asbestos fibers in your lungs. Eventually, you will recover the financial compensation you deserve for your physical and emotional suffering.