When it comes to cancer, early detection is the key to successful treatment. It has been noted that urgent referrals for lung cancer have fallen during the COVID-19 pandemic which is likely to increase mortality among the lung cancer patients. Also, considering Covid 19 has overlapping symptoms with early stage lung cancer, it is important to know the differences and similarities between the two diseases so that there is no negligence in early diagnosis of cancer patients thus increasing their chances of survival.
According to experts, both Covid-19 and lung cancer will have some common symptoms like cough and breathlessness but in case of latter there will be coughing with blood, weight loss, persistent chest infections. In case of Covid-19, breathlessness could be accompanied by lowering of oxygen saturation, which is not the case in early stage lung cancer.
Dr. Geeta Chopra, Head Lab Operations, North Zone, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd. answers some of the most common questions that might be in people’s mind regarding the differences and similarities between early stage lung cancer and Covid-19.
Also Read: What Is Lung Cancer? Here Are Its Symptoms, Causes, Stages And Treatment
What Is Lung Cancer And What Are Its Early And Advanced Symptoms?
Lung cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lungs. Cancer develops when there is uncontrolled cell growth in any organ. Lung cancer is a malignant tumor which can spread to other parts of the body if not timely treated. It can present with long standing cough, which could follow with blood in cough. Symptoms include shortness of breath, hoarseness of voice, loss of appetite and weight loss. Advanced cases may present with chest pain or bone pain.
What Are The Causes Of Lung Cancer?
Long term tobacco use or smoking are the major causes in the development of lung cancers. People exposed to second-hand smoke, which means indirect exposure of people who have never smoked also stand a risk. Apart from smoking, air pollution and industrial pollutants like exposure to asbestos and other substances known to cause cancer such as arsenic, chromium and nickel can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, especially if one is a smoker. Genetic predisposition to cancers with a strong family history of cancers also plays an important role, especially when combined with smoking and other pollutions.
What Are The Similarities In Symptoms Of Lung Cancer And Covid-19?
- Cough and breathlessness
- Flu-like symptoms
- Chest tightness
- Chest infection
In cancer patient, however, worsening of existing cough and breathlessness should be investigated for Corona infection.
What Are The Differences In Symptoms Of Lung Cancer And Covid-19?
- Symptoms of COVID 19 include fever apart from cough and shortness of breath which is not the case generally in early-stage lung cancer. Fever could be low grade or high grade.
- In Covid, cough may be wet or dry. There will be throat pain or running nose.
- The fever may be accompanied with breathlessness. Breathless could be accompanied by lowering of oxygen saturation, which is not the case in lung cancer unless advanced.
- Loss of taste or smell is also seen in some patients with COVID 19 infection which is not the case in lung cancer patients
- In case the fatigue lasts for more than four weeks or there is unexplained persistent cough, breathlessness and chest infection lung cancer could be suspected.
- The other symptoms of early lung cancer include chest pain, weight loss, appetite loss among others.
What Should Lung Cancer Patients Do To Avoid Covid-19 Infection?
- Lung cancer patients need to follow all the safety measures recommended to general public – wearing of face mask, social distancing and rigorous hygiene, including soap – water or hand wash or alcohol rub.
- Patients with lung cancer should avoid visit to clinics or hospital unless medical assistance is essential.
- Lung cancer patients should consider delaying or skipping some treatments depending upon their own circumstance.
- Substitute telemedicine visits for in-person clinic visits.
Is There Any Way To Avoid Lung Cancer?
There's no sure way to prevent lung cancer, but one can reduce the risk if person follows a healthy lifestyle, which includes – No smoking . Avoid indirect smoke exposure, carcinogens at home by wearing a face mask in case of exposure. Eat a healthy diet and exercise daily.
Are Lung Cancer Patients More At Risk of Covid Complications?
As of right now there is not enough definitive data that links novel coronavirus with lung cancer, but still some studies do point towards higher risk in cancer patients. Especially elderly or frail patients or patients with low immune status, patients with other comorbidities carry higher risk to Corona infection.
How Can Lung Cancer Patients Take Care Of Themselves In The Pandemic?
Lung Cancer patients need to follow all the safety measures recommended to public – wearing of face mask, social distancing and rigorous hygiene. The main trigger to go to the hospital could be fever or a new, persistent cough, or worsening breathing.
It is important to get screened for cancer if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms. Ignoring the warning signs even in the middle of a raging pandemic is not advisable as it may affect one’s chances of recovery and would increase the cost of treatment, in case the cancer advances due to negligence.
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