COVID-19 pandemic causing concerns for patients with lung problems

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — It’s challenging enough for people dealing with pulmonary problems like lung cancer, but the coronavirus pandemic is making that even more difficult.

Dr. Douglas Minnich is a thoracic surgeon at Princeton Baptist Medical Center. He treats patients with cancers of the lung and esophagus and says the pandemic is a concern for his patients. Many of them are elderly, have heart or chronic lung disease or are active smokers, all of which puts them among the high-risk groups for getting the virus. And many of the symptoms they experience on a regular basis also are COVID-19 symptoms.

“And now anytime they have one of these symptoms that they may have had many times before, it’s an additional source of anxiety and concern of whether this could be related to COVID-19,” Minnich said.

Minnich said he is also concerned about the pandemic leading to treatment delays for many patients who know they’re in a high-risk category and might be worried about visiting a medical center.

“The concern is that all of these factors can result in a potential delay in the initiation of therapy for their cancer,” he said.

Those already getting treatment are also at risk. Minnich said chemotherapy can make a person more likely to get any infection.

“Any chemotherapy can, in addition to the beneficial effects for the cancer, it does weaken the immune system and place that particular group of patients at additional risk for infection,” he said.

But Minnich and other doctors are trying to limit the number of in-person appointments for cancer patients. They’re doing as many video and telephone appointments as possible and trying to avoid bringing a patient in unless they need therapy or a test. Minnich recommends that patients talk to their doctors about any new symptoms they experience so they can get tested early and appropriately treated.


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