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Patients with laryngeal cancer are in the high-risk group for contracting COVID-19

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on March 27th, 2020

With the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus all throughout the world, there are many dilemmas that doctors and patients are facing. What is certain is the fact that cancer patients are the most vulnerable group when it comes to contracting COVID-19 and possibly developing life-threatening complications.

According to the American Cancer Society, around 1.8 million people could get diagnosed with cancer this year, and over 600.000 have a high risk of dying from the disease. Considering the risks that COVID-19 exposes the already fragile cancer patients to, the number of deaths among cancer patients could get much higher than estimated if drastic measures to protect them are not taken. Currently, doctors, health officials, and caretakers are working to ensure that vulnerable patients are being taken care of without putting them at risk for infection by performing treatments at clinics or hospitals. For some of the cancer patients, substituting IV therapies with cancer-fighting pills or postponing treatment/operations is a viable option. But those with more aggressive forms of cancer or who are in an advanced stage, postponing doesn't seem to be an option, forcing hospitals to take drastic measures to ensure that cancer patients won't be infected with the novel coronavirus.

Patients that are currently undergoing cancer treatment such as chemotherapy may be at a higher risk of getting infected with COVID-19 and developing severe complications, as their immune systems are weakened. There are an estimated 228.000 people in the U.S who will get diagnosed in 2020 with lung and throat cancer which includes laryngeal cancer as well. And while there is no scientific evidence suggesting that these types of cancers that affect the throat and respiratory tract raise the risk of severe complications, the reality is that any type of virus can prove fatal to cancer patients.

Risk factors for developing laryngeal cancer

Estimates made by The American Cancer Society say that there could be around 12.370 new cases of laryngeal cancer in the U.S and about 3.750 people will die from it. Studies have shown that about 60% of laryngeal cancers form in the area containing the vocal cords and 35% develop above the area of the vocal cords. The rest, overlap multiple areas so it's hard to know exactly where they first started.

There are numerous risk factors that can lead to laryngeal cancer including exposure to wood dust, paint fumes, toxic chemicals used in various processing industries, and asbestos. Numerous studies have linked throat cancer (which includes laryngeal cancer) to asbestos exposure, including one from the Institute of Medicine that concluded there is a 40% higher risk of developing laryngeal cancer for people with asbestos exposure. Working in an asbestos-contaminated environment without proper protection (as it often happened before the 80s) could lead to workers inhaling asbestos fibers. In the process of passing through the larynx, these fibers could penetrate the laryngeal tissue, leading to severe inflammation and cancer.

Because of the fact that the symptoms of early-stage laryngeal cancer can mimic common respiratory issues, misdiagnosis is more common than expected. It's very important that people with a history of toxic exposure constantly check up on their health.

COVID-19 risks for laryngeal cancer patients and how to prevent getting infected

As the COVID-19 sweeps through the country, cancer patients face a great risk of becoming ill and developing severe complications. Official reports from the WHO have placed cancer patients in the category at the highest risk, meaning that for them COVID-19 could prove to be fatal. This is because cancer patients have their immune system compromised by their malignancies and treatments.

Those who recently had surgery for cancer and those currently being in treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation, are at the highest risk as their white blood cell count is extremely low, making them highly vulnerable to catching an infection and in the impossibility of fighting it off.

This is why it's extremely important for cancer patients to protect themselves as much as possible, and the best way to do that for the moment is through isolation. Family members showing symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 should try to avoid all contact and take all the necessary precautions to avoid contaminating the home environment.

Cancer patients should also take these extra steps in order to protect themselves:

  • Go out as little as possible, and especially avoid crowded places such as shops. If you need treatment, make sure to first ask your doctor what would be the best course of action, before actually going to the hospital.
  • If you go out, use gloves or hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds when you enter the house.
  • If your treatment continues at a medical center, bring only one caregiver and be prepared to have them wait outside, as it is possible that some facilities don't allow caregivers in.
  • Use disinfectants at home to clean door handles, cell phones, remotes, and other items or surfaces that get touched a lot.

Legal help for victims of laryngeal cancer caused by asbestos exposure

Until 1980, asbestos was present in numerous industries, exposing millions of workers to serious health issues. If you were diagnosed with laryngeal cancer after handling asbestos or products containing it, you may be eligible to file a claim. Our attorneys will file your claim with the asbestos trust funds of the companies which exposed you to asbestos, as well as with the VA for disability compensation if you are a veteran. However, you will need to initiate the legal process as soon as possible, as these claims usually have a statute of limitations of 3 years from the moment of diagnosis.

Our legal team will evaluate your case and determine whether you are eligible for filing a claim. We will handle all the paperwork necessary in order to ensure you receive the maximum compensation. Throughout over 25 years of pursuing asbestos exposure cases, we have been successful in recovering compensation of over $1.4 billion for asbestos victims and we work relentlessly to ensure that our clients receive the rightful amount. Contact us for any further information you might need regarding the process and we will gladly help you.