Archive for June 28, 2012

How are genes involved in cancer?

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Genes don’t cause cancer, but genetic mutations can. Our cells have about 22,000 genes, which consist of DNA packed into chromosomes inside the cell nucleus. These genes control a wide range of functions, including cell growth and division. When the genes misbehave or mutate, cancer can develop. Read more

Five tips for exercising during (and after) cancer treatment

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If you think a cancer diagnosis automatically means you’ll need to get plenty of bed rest and avoid activity, think again. A host of medical studies show that exercise can not only reduce the chances of developing cancer, it’s also safe during and after cancer treatment, helping improve quality of life, increase energy levels, and decrease the fatigue that many patients report.

Here are some tips for starting your own fitness routine, even if you’re facing the challenge of cancer.

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Tips every new cancer survivor should know

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In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship. 

When I was discharged from the hospital in 1996 after undergoing a stem cell transplant to treat leukemia, I was terrified. Yes, I’d survived cancer treatment, but now I had to deal with something even scarier: the unknown.

If you’ve recently ended active treatment and are entering the world of survivorship, here are some tips to keep in mind.

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A cancer survivor at age 9

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In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship.

To look at 9-year-old baseball player and Lego champion Charlie Rider, you’d never guess he’d had cancer for nearly half his life. Read more

Why pediatric survivor programs are so important

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In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship. 

When Dana-Farber launched its David B. Perini, Jr. Quality of Life Clinic nearly 20 years ago, it was one of the nation’s first programs dedicated to helping childhood cancer survivors.

From the beginning, the pediatric survivorship clinic has been guided by clinic director Lisa Diller, MD, who is recognized globally for her contributions to cancer survivorship and pediatric oncology. The Perini clinic has developed resources that help survivors address issues such as the long-term effects of treatment, the risk of second cancers, and the psychological concerns of being a cancer survivor.

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Teacher travels 600 miles for Dana-Farber care

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In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship. 

In 2008 I discovered that my breast cancer, in remission for several years, had spread to my bones. I had just turned 50 and made a list of things I wanted to try that year: ride a helicopter, taste sake, attend a political rally. Going back into cancer treatment was not on the list.

My oncologist in Virginia suggested a consult with Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Oncology Center in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers. After meeting with him I began traveling to Dana-Farber every six months for checkups. I went back on tamoxifen, a drug I had taken for five years after my treatment for breast cancer in 2000. Things seemed to be going well until last year.

Pam ZwemerWhen the cancer cells migrated to my stomach lining in 2011, I joined a clinical trial under Dr. Winer’s care. It is exploring the side effects of two oral medications, letrozole (a hormonal therapy that reduces estrogen production) and BKM120, thought to overcome the cancer’s resistance to hormonal therapy.

Dr. Winer coordinates my care with my oncologist in Virginia, Michael E. Lee, MD. I remember e-mailing Dr. Winer the night I learned the cancer had invaded my stomach. At 10:30 p.m., there he was, on my screen. During my visits I feel comforted by his presence. I know I’m in good hands.

Trusting my care team means I can keep doing what I love – teaching high school math. My school community has helped, raising more than $9,000 for my travel expenses.

Every month I travel to Boston on a Wednesday afternoon, see my care team on Thursday, fly home that night, and am back in the classroom Friday. I want my students to know that having stage IV breast cancer is only part of my identity. I’m still me.

Pam Zwemer chairs the math department at the Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va., and is a Dana-Farber patient.

A comprehensive approach to care for cancer survivors

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In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship. 

The United States today is home to an estimated 12 million cancer survivors, thanks largely to advances in cancer treatment. But the end of treatment is not the end of the cancer experience.

For many cancer survivors and caregivers, the years after cancer treatment can bring physical and psychological challenges, says Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, founder and director of Dana-Farber’s Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer and director of the Adult Survivorship Program.

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Meningioma: A tumor on the edge of the brain

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Musician Sheryl Crow announced on June 5 that she has a benign brain tumor known as a meningioma. Below, doctors from Dana-Farber’s Center for Neuro-Oncology describe this condition. The singer-songwriter, a breast cancer survivor, visited Dana-Farber in 2006.

Meningiomas are tumors on the surface of the brain, spinal cord, and fluid spaces. They are the most common type of brain tumor, with approximately 55,000 new cases diagnosed annually in the United States. Read more

Therapy dogs bring smiles to kids with cancer

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With the pitter patter of small feet, Phil makes his way through the halls of Boston Children’s Hospital. He walks with a purpose, boarding the elevator that takes him to the oncology floor for his next appointment.

Pawprints’ Phil even has his own calling card.

Phil is a new face in 6 North, the oncology unit at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. A spunky pug mix who knows a trick or two, Phil is one of nine therapy dogs who visit pediatric patients at Boston Children’s Hospital as part of the Pawprints Program. What he lacks in medical credentials and size, he easily makes up for in heart. Read more

What is myelodysplastic syndrome?

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When Good Morning America host Robin Roberts revealed that she has myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), she turned a spotlight on a group of blood disorders that affect an estimated 35,000 to 55,000 people in the United States.

In patients with MDS, the bone marrow fails to produce normal quantities of blood cells and the cells themselves are often abnormal, resulting in anemia and an array of symptoms including paleness, fatigue, susceptibility to infections, and easy bruising or bleeding. The syndrome, of which there are at least 15,000 new diagnoses each year in the United States, formerly was known as “pre-leukemia” because about one-third of patients go on to develop acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).
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