Which cancer patients belong to risk group? The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has only been known since the beginning of 2020. Therefore, many questions regarding cancer and corona have not yet been finally clarified. In addition, the individual situations in which cancer patients find themselves can differ significantly.
In general, the following applies: In cancer patients, the risk of infection must be separated from the risk of a severe course of the disease. Statistically speaking, cancer patients have a significantly higher risk of pneumonia than healthy people if they develop viral infections of the upper respiratory tract. Do cancer patients also have an increased risk of infection? So far there is no reliable data for this.
Are all cancer patients at risk?
Generally names cancer patients as one of several risk groups for severe courses of COVID-19 disease. This leads to uncertainty for many people affected by cancer, especially if the cancer was a long time ago.
The following factors appear to be decisive for a severe course of COVID-19 in cancer patients:
Not all cancer is created equal
A general classification of cancer patients as a risk group for a severe course of COVID-19 is not possible, because: The risk depends on the type of cancer and the disease situation, the therapy required as well as concomitant diseases and other risk factors.
The disease situation:
For example, it has been shown that patients with active, progressive or metastatic cancer have a poorer prognosis when they contract COVID-19 than patients with stable and well-controlled cancer or healed cancer patients.
The type of cancer:
For example, blood cancer under intensive therapy or lung cancer are considered risk factors for a severe course of COVID-19.
The individual requirements:
As in the general population, in cancer patients, in particular, older age, pronounced concomitant diseases, a male gender and smoking can have a detrimental effect on the course of COVID-19. Blood values that suggest a weakened immune system also seem to indicate a poorer prognosis for COVID-19.
The experts point out that the data for a classification are still incomplete. Further analyzes should provide an even more precise picture of when cancer patients belong to the risk group for a severe course of Covid-19.
Important to know: The experts assess the likelihood of a severe course of the disease in a certain group. But even healthy people can become seriously ill from an infection with the coronavirus. And: not everyone who belongs to the risk group will inevitably become seriously ill.
Cancer-independent risk factors for a severe course of COVID-19
- According to the Robert Koch Institute, pre-existing conditions such as
- certain lung and heart diseases (such as the lung disease COPD or high blood pressure),
- Diabetes (diabetes mellitus),
- chronic kidney and liver diseases and
- Diseases that weaken the immune system.
- General risk factors
The following groups of people in whom severe disease courses are observed more frequently:
- People from the age group 50-60 years
- People who are very overweight
Risk factor blood group?
There are indications from studies that the blood group could influence the individual risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2. This affects both the likelihood of becoming infected and the severity of the disease.
The studies showed that people with blood group A had a higher risk of a severe course of COVID-19 than people with blood group 0.
However, the results of the studies are not uniform and researchers are still discussing them intensively. For the individual, this means that no general statement can be derived from this. It cannot be predicted that someone will become seriously ill with COVID-19 because of their blood type, nor that someone is protected because of their blood type. Rather, blood type can be one of many risk factors.
How do I know if my immune system is weakened?
An important factor for assigning cancer patients to the risk group is whether their immune system is currently weakened.
That would be the case, for example,
- if cancer therapy lowers white blood cells or
- decreased immunoglobulin levels or
- people permanently receive medication to suppress the immune system.
Shortly after therapy:
Many people wonder whether the immune system has been regenerated shortly after cancer therapy in such a way that there is no longer any increased susceptibility to infection. However, it is difficult to give a general answer. Recent research shows that subsets of immune cells may take longer to fully recover.
What this means for general defense against infection and for COVID-19 in particular has not yet been clarified with certainty among experts.