OSUCCC &ndash; James experts are here to help patients and caregivers as they continue their cancer journeys amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Today&rsquo;s topic: Reducing cancer patients&rsquo; risk of COVID-19. As Ohio State oncologists continue to provide cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic, OSUCCC &ndash; James experts are working with patients and their families to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection &mdash; at home and in the hospital. Temporary visitor restrictions One of the most effective ways to limit the spread of COVID-19 is to practice physical distancing whenever possible. This is especially important where cancer patients are concerned because they have compromised immune systems due to their disease and/or related treatment. While some in-person interaction is a must for many patients due to surgery, chemotherapy or other necessary cancer treatments, the limiting of visitors during the pandemic can greatly reduce the chances of coming into contact with a carrier of COVID-19, which can cause infection without the presentation of symptoms. While the restriction of physical visits (with some exceptions) can be upsetting at times, patients and families are encouraged to remain in contact throughout the pandemic via phone and online interactions. Experts at The James and other cancer centers are always on-hand to provide information and assistance for those interested in establishing these lines of virtual communication. Telehealth options for outpatient appointments In addition to social visits, many doctor&rsquo;s appointments can take place virtually through online programs &mdash; even for cancer patients. Through built-in cameras on smartphones, laptops and home computers &mdash; or external webcams &mdash; cancer patients can engage in a wide variety of thorough consultations with their providers online through virtual meeting programs, many of which are available free of charge. &ldquo;Our approach to telehealth goes beyond a simple conversation between the provider and a patient, because our cancer patient population is unique and requires more than that,&rdquo; says James Chen, MD, a medical oncologist who is co-leading the telehealth initiative at The James with Robb Stillman, RN, director of clinical informatics, and Samantha Jaglowski, MD, a hematologist. &ldquo;Every patient still receives a comprehensive nursing assessment and an evaluation by the physician team. Pharmacists, social workers and dietitians are all still incorporated into each patient&rsquo;s visit, as appropriate.&rdquo; Anyone interested in information about virtual visits, including best practices and available programs, should discuss available options with their oncologists. The importance of continuing cancer treatment During the pandemic, many medical procedures, including elective surgeries, are being postponed until the risk of COVID-19 infection falls. While these postponements are an important part of the combined effort to &ldquo;flatten the curve&rdquo; of the novel coronavirus, many cancer treatments are vital for the health of patients, and should continue throughout the physical distancing period. Patients should discuss their specific needs with their oncology teams to determine the best &mdash; and safest &mdash; treatment plans during the pandemic. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s vital that people who are undergoing cancer treatment in the era of COVID-19 have conversations with their oncologists. The U.S. Surgeon General has recommended that many elective surgeries be canceled, but very often, cancer surgeries are not elective, says David Cohn, MD, chief medical officer for The James. &ldquo;Likewise, chemotherapy treatments and radiation therapies that are necessary to improve patients&rsquo; chances of survival or their quality of life are in general continuing.&rdquo; COVID-19 risk reduction at home While cancer patients may need to visit hospitals and outpatient clinics during the pandemic, there are several steps they &mdash; and their caretakers and families &mdash; can take at home to limit potential COVID-19 exposure while focusing on their health. In addition to the restriction of most social interaction to phone or online visits, patients and their families should follow additional physical distancing guidelines, including the limiting of travel outside of the home whenever possible. A wide variety of delivery options for food and other necessities are currently available, and often allow for the purchased items to be left outside of homes in order to limit physical interaction. Whenever patients and family members handle packaging for food or other items &mdash; or when they are required to leave the home &mdash; they should take care to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds whenever possible, and use hand sanitizer when handwashing isn&rsquo;t an immediate option. Patients are also encouraged to continue to follow recommended nutritional and exercise plans while sheltering in place. While this can be more challenging to accomplish at home, there are a variety of easy-to-prepare meals that can be made using ingredients from the freezer and pantry, and several exercises that patients can complete around the house. The James comprehensive cancer team &mdash; as well as experts at cancer centers around the country &mdash; are available throughout the pandemic to work with patients on personalized plans for at-home healthy living. Get comprehensive information on COVID-19 and cancer &mdash; including important information and tips on nutrition, exercise and risk reduction &mdash; from OSUCCC &ndash; James experts.