Research Advances Hold Promise for Multiple Myeloma Treatment

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Multiple myeloma is one of the most compelling examples of a cancer in which research has markedly improved the length and quality of patients’ lives in the last decade. A malignancy of certain white blood cells in the bone marrow known as plasma cells, myeloma is still considered incurable, but treatment advances have significantly improved survival. Not long ago, patients with myeloma lived a median time of two to three years after diagnosis. Today, median survival is seven to 10 years, although this can be unpredictable, with some patients living longer and others surviving for significantly shorter time periods. Scientists have …

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What to do if Your Child Relapses

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Relapse is a word any cancer patient dreads, but for parents of children with cancer, fear of the cancer coming back can be acute. Yet, “a cure is possible for many patients whose cancer returns,” says Barbara Degar, MD.  “We approach the second experience with the same rigor we brought the first time, and come up with the best strategy to achieve a second remission.” About 15-20 percent of children with acute lymphoblastic  leukemia (ALL) will relapse, 40 percent of children with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), and 50 percent of children with neuroblastoma. In some cases, treatment the second time …

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How Exercise Can Help Neuropathy

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For many patients treated with chemotherapy, peripheral neuropathy can be an uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effect. The condition, which includes tingling or loss of sensation in the arms or legs, can increase risk for falls and fall-related injuries. To help prevent and ease these problems, Dana-Farber exercise physiologist Nancy Campbell, MS, recommends patients use low-impact exercise routines like finger taps, calf stretches, and ankle rolls. These exercises help increase blood flow to the peripheral nerves, restoring feeling in the extremities. The routines also build strength and improve balance, which can lead to fewer falls. View Campbell’s presentation below for …

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Five Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun

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As summer heats up, many people will be heading to the beach to escape the hot temperatures. But before you spend time in the sun, Dana-Farber dermatologist, Jennifer Lin, MD, has a few tips to protect your skin and lower your risk of developing skin cancer: 1. Do not use tanning booths Don’t hit the tanning bed for a “base tan” before you hit the beach. Tanning booths contain UVA rays, which can raise the risk for developing melanoma, the rarest and most aggressive form of skin cancer. Getting a base tan won’t stop you from burning at the beach, …

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Young Adult Patients Bond Over a Shared Diagnosis

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By Lisa Belanger and Carolyn Ridge  One of the most challenging aspects of having cancer is finding someone you can relate to. And who better to understand you than another cancer survivor? This is our story of cancer and friendship. Lisa’s Story: I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the ripe age of 29 on Sept. 12, 2011, upon waking up from surgery to remove what was thought to be a benign ovarian cyst. I was in my final semester of graduate school and nearly a year into the most serious long-term relationship of my life. I had plans to advance my …

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What are the Most Common Sites for Melanoma?

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Melanoma, the most severe form of skin cancer, results from an interaction between the genetics of the individual and damage to DNA from external factors. In the case of melanoma, most of the environmental damage is due to exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. The cancer develops in the pigment-producing cells of the skin and can occur elsewhere in the body, including, rarely, inside the eye. In men, melanoma is most commonly found on the back and other places on the trunk (from the shoulders to the hips) or the head and neck. The most common sites in women …

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Salvadoran Doctor Sets Sights on Changing Pediatric Oncology in Her Country

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By Dr. Soad Fuentes Alabi Soad Fuentes Alabi, MD, visited Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center as part of the Global Health Initiative. She shares her experience with Insight readers. In El Salvador, where I come from, in a population of more than 5 million, there are almost 1.1 million children ages 1-14. For all of those children, there is only one pediatric hospital. As a doctor who specializes in pediatric oncology, I was thrilled when I got the chance to come to America. Through the St. Baldrick’s International Scholar Award, I had the opportunity to come to the U.S. …

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Lymphoma Survivor Tackles Breast Cancer While Helping Fellow Patients

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By Catherine Goff When you’re 21, the last words you expect to hear are “you have cancer.” But, that was exactly the news I received in 1976 after a routine trip to my college infirmary landed me in Boston Children’s Hospital with Hodgkin lymphoma. Thanks to new treatments developed through clinical trials and a summer undergoing radiation therapy at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), I was deemed cancer-free. While I wanted to say, “I beat it,” I knew the five-year mark was a big milestone for Hodgkin lymphoma patients, and I was nervous until I reached that goal. How much …

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh ‘Proud to be a Cancer Survivor’

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh recently gave the keynote address at Dana-Farber’s Living Proof: Celebrating Survivorship event. He shared his experience as a child being treated for Burkitt’s lymphoma at Dana-Farber and Boston Children’s Hospital. Below are some excerpts from his speech:  I was diagnosed with cancer at age 7. I went through treatment for almost four years. At 7-years old, I didn’t really know what was going on and how serious it was – and it was pretty serious. For many years I missed a lot of school. I missed most of my second and third grades. When I finally went into remission, …

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Five Things You Need to Know About Cancer Genetics

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Although most cancers are sporadic or occur by chance, a small percentage are due to inherited genetic (or germline) mutations, which can often be identified through genetic testing.  These mutations are different from somatic mutations, which are not inherited, but occur during one’s lifetime. Profile, a research project launched by Dana-Farber and Briigham and Women’s Hospital, has been analyzing DNA from tumor tissue since 2011 to learn more about how somatic mutations drive cancer. “Depending on family and personal history, we can test for genes that confer an increased risk for developing cancer,” says Huma Q. Rana, MD, clinical director for …

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