4 tips to get moving if you are stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic

Karen Basen-Engquist. Ph.D., has managed to stay physically active during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. According to a recent study,  she may be in the minority — and she understands why. In the unpublished study posted on Cambridge Open Exchange, researchers found that people who got the recommended amount of physical activity before the pandemic exercised about 32% less once the pandemic – and stay-at-home orders – took hold. People who were not getting the recommended amount of exercise before the coronavirus pandemic stayed at about the same level of activity. “I’m not surprised by these study results,” says Basen-Engquist, director of MD Anderson’s Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship. “I think that when people are in stressful situations and there are barriers to healthy choices, healthy habits take a backseat.” Exercise may not feel like a priority right now, but it is important to stay active. Exercise relieves stress, helps reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and boosts your immune system. It can also lower your risk for cancer and other diseases. And for cancer survivors, regular exercise can reduce fatigue and improve outcomes. If you are struggling to stay active during the coronavirus pandemic, try this advice from Basen-Engquist. Find tools that can help you stay active during the COVID-19 pandemic You don’t need special equipment, access to a gym or a lot of space to get your heart rate up, build strength and improve your mobility. “Videos and apps can provide you with structured routines that are easy to follow,” says Basen-Engquist. Workouts that include body weight exercises like pushups and sit-ups...

For follicular lymphoma survivor, time is on her side

When Maribeth Holzer asked her family doctor about a curious lump in her right armpit, she never suspected it was follicular lymphoma.  Her doctor said was probably an ingrown hair caused by shaving, or perhaps a blocked pore due to antiperspirant use. But when a purple, dime-sized spot suddenly appeared on Maribeth’s face, she decided to visit a dermatologist. “I felt fine,” she says, “but thought I should have that strange splotch checked out. As long as I was there, I’d ask about the armpit lump, too.” It’s a good thing she did. A biopsy revealed Maribeth had follicular lymphoma, a type of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma that starts in the body’s immune system. Follicular lymphoma symptoms may include a lump in the armpit, neck or groin, caused by cancerous immune cells that build up in lymph nodes and cause swelling. The disease can also produce a skin rash that appears as one or more scaly red or purple patches. “Those were my only telltale signs,” Maribeth says. “Other than that, I didn’t even know anything was wrong.” The dermatologist in Maribeth’s small Louisiana town suggested she seek cancer treatment in nearby Shreveport or at MD Anderson in Houston. “Right away, I knew I wanted to go to MD Anderson,” Maribeth recalls, “but just to be sure, I asked him where he would go. He said ‘Definitely, MD Anderson.’” Days later, Maribeth and her husband made the five-and-a-half hour drive to Houston. A stage IV follicular lymphoma diagnosis At MD Anderson, lymphoma specialist Hun Lee, M.D., ordered three days of testing to confirm Maribeth’s diagnosis and see how far the cancer...

How to get the most out of your virtual visit

To help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and make it easier for patients to see a doctor without leaving home, MD Anderson and many other health care providers are offering virtual visits for many patients. Existing MD Anderson patients who have a clinic follow-up visit or a consult visit with a new MD Anderson provider may be eligible for a video visit, depending on where they live. Each state has different regulations regarding video visits and the practice of medicine by out-of-state clinicians. Talk to your care team to learn what may be available and best for you. “Virtual visits offer a convenient way for our cancer patients to continue receiving the outstanding care they have always experienced from their MD Anderson care team, with the added benefit of not having to leave their homes,” says Neema Navai, M.D. If you’ve never had a virtual visit before, here’s what you should know to get the most out of your virtual visit. Plan ahead ensure a productive conversation “Virtual visits offer tremendous convenience since they can be done from anywhere with the click of a button,” says Navai. “But they do require a little bit of planning ahead to ensure you and your provider have a productive visit.” Whether your appointment is virtual or in person, it can be hard to remember everything you want to discuss with your health care provider. So, before your appointment, write down your questions, as well as new symptoms and concerns. This will help ensure you don’t forget anything important that you want to discuss during your visit. Before your virtual...

Have an MD Anderson appointment during the COVID-19 pandemic? Here’s what to know

Despite communities beginning to lift “stay home” orders during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, MD Anderson’s operations – including patient appointments – continue to be affected. While MD Anderson is open for care, the organization must keep enhanced safety measures in place to reduce the potential for COVID-19 exposure on our campuses and protect the health of our patients and our employees. Cancer patients are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because their immune systems are weakened due to treatment or the cancer itself. “Our patient population represents the largest and densest immunocompromised population in the world,” says Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “We must accept that we will co-exist with COVID-19 until we reach a widespread state of immunity. Our readiness to protect our patients and our workforce is crucial.” So what changes can MD Anderson patients and families expect during COVID-19? Making patient appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic Our process for new patients requesting MD Anderson appointments remains the same. Patients can self-refer online, or a physician may initiate the referral. Current patients should contact their care teams through MyChart, or by calling their clinic. Our clinical teams will work with you to determine the most appropriate option for your care, which for current patients may include a virtual visit, care coordination in your local community if you live outside the Houston area, or visiting an MD Anderson location for your appointments and cancer treatment. Our goal is to reduce the number of visits to Houston to keep our patients safe, since traveling increases the risk of COVID-19 infection. Patients traveling from outside Texas may need...

Mantle cell lymphoma patient benefits from clinical trial despite COVID-19 pandemic

Charles Salazar lives in New Jersey, but considers Houston his “second” home. For four years, he and his wife, Debbie, have been traveling to Houston regularly so he can receive treatment for mantle cell lymphoma, a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, at MD Anderson. “Sure, I could have sought care closer to home, but my wife is a nurse who knows her stuff,” he says. “As soon as I was diagnosed, she started researching where I could get the best treatment.” Debbie’s diligence led the couple to Michael Wang, M.D., one of the nation’s foremost experts in mantle cell lymphoma. “We made the three-hour flight to Houston to visit Dr. Wang,” Charles says. “As soon as we met him, that was it – we knew he was our guy. He’s not only tops in his field, but he’s also a passionate advocate for his patients.” A wait-and-watch approach to mantle cell lymphoma treatment Wang determined that Charles had a slow-growing form of mantle cell lymphoma, and placed him on a wait-and-watch protocol. “Many patients like Mr. Salazar who have few to no symptoms can be monitored over time without any treatment,” explains Wang. “If their cancer begins to advance, we shift from surveillance to active treatment.” That’s exactly what happened to Charles. Last year, after four years of holding steady, a PET scan showed his slow-growing mantle cell lymphoma had indeed begun to inch forward. Phase II clinical trial offers new mantle cell treatment option At this same time, Wang was launching the Windows II clinical trial, which would test a combination of three drugs to treat mantle cell...