Archive for December 27, 2012

Best of Insight: Our 10 Favorite Posts from 2012


Asking an editor to pick his or her favorite story is like asking a kid to pick out just one piece of candy. It’s a tough task. Luckily, we’re not bound by the one-piece rule. So here are a few stories that you might have missed, or might want to view again.

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Full Circle: The Journey from Patient to Caregiver


by Sara Dickison Taylor

You wouldn’t be able to tell just by meeting them, but high-school student Molly Callahan and Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center nurse Lindsay Roache, RN, have a few things in common: They’ve survived cancer, and they’re committed to helping others. Read more

Can I Eat Grapefruit When I’m Taking Prescription Medication?


by Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, and Elizabeth Lundy, DI

Grapefruits are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and other phytonutrients, but if you’re taking certain prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, you may need to choose other fruits.

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Proton Therapy No Better Than Traditional Therapy for Prostate Cancer Patients


When it comes to treating prostate cancer, proton radiotherapy (PRT) is no better than traditional intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), according to a new study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on Friday.

PRT is an advanced but expensive treatment option for some prostate cancer patients. However, the researchers found that the therapy offers no added treatment benefit than the standard therapy. The article concluded: “Although PRT is substantially more costly than IMRT, there was no difference in toxicity in a comprehensive cohort of Medicare beneficiaries with prostate cancer at 12 months post-treatment.”

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New Photo and Food Apps Focus on Cancer Care


Today, we wanted to take a moment to share a couple of free mobile apps. Both were developed here at Dana-Farber but they have very different uses.

The first app is for the iPad and it’s very simple – a year’s worth of beautiful photos showing some of the happier moments in the lives of our patients and staff.   Read more

Why I Open My Home to Strangers


by Anne Tonachel

In 1997, when our children were all grown up, my husband Dick and I moved from the suburbs to Cambridge, right near many Boston hospitals. We bought a condo with an extra bedroom, and we shortly thereafter read about Hospitality Homes in the paper. Getting involved with them seemed like a great way to do something useful with the space.

We’ve been hosting people for more than 15 years now, and every individual and family is different. We’ve celebrated with some, cried with others, but it’s always meaningful. We love having people from all over the world stay at our home. One couple from Italy stayed with us while their baby was being treated at Boston Children’s Hospital. When we traveled to Italy on vacation they returned the favor. It felt like we were visiting old friends.

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Coping with the Holidays When Grief Is New


It’s hard to believe that the holidays are upon us – again. The stores are overflowing with holiday goods as families gear up for their celebrations.

However, if someone you love has recently died, thinking about the holidays may bring you anguish. What were once happy times might now fill you with tremendous sadness and heartache. You may even wish that this year, you could skip the holidays all together. Read more

Does Breast Density Affect Mammogram Results?


by Laura Dominici, MD

Mammograms are the most effective tool for screening women for breast cancer. But mammography isn’t perfect: it may be slightly less effective for women with dense breasts.

About half of all women have fairly dense breasts, which contain relatively large amounts of fibrous and glandular tissue and less fat. (Fibrous tissue supports and gives shape to the breast; glandular tissue produces and transports milk.) Breast density, which tends to be high in young women, often declines with age.

Surgical Oncologist Laura Dominici, MD

On a mammogram, dense breast tissue appears as light gray or white, the same shades that can indicate a cancer. On the one hand, this may make tumors harder to detect. On the other, it can result in more false-positives, in which an area that initially appears to show a tumor proves – after further testing – to be non-cancerous.

The letter sent to a woman describing the results of her mammogram doesn’t mention breast density. However, breast density is included in the mammogram report sent to her physician. When an area of concern turns up on a physical exam of a woman with dense breasts, it should be a cue for her physician to explain how density affects mammogram results and how to understand those results. If a woman is concerned that the density of her breasts may reduce the reliability of her mammogram, she should address the issue with her physician.

Despite the potential limitations of mammography for dense breasts, it remains the best, most useful screening technology that we currently have.


Laura Dominici, MD, is a surgical oncologist in the Breast Oncology Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, and an instructor in surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Can the Effects of Smoking Be Reversed?


From the day a cigarette smoker quits the habit, healthy changes begin to occur within the body.

People can lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke within a few weeks of quitting, says Bruce Johnson, MD, director of the Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. Those who quit smoking and remain non-smokers for five to 10 years can cut their risk of cancer in half compared to people who keep smoking.

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