Archive for January 31, 2013

Five Questions to Ask A Cancer Patient

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by Michael Buller

Whenever I’ve met people with cancer, I’ve been at a loss for what to say and which questions to ask.

Now, as a cancer patient, I realize the irony. Read more

What is a Benign Tumor? What is a Malignant Tumor?

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A tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue that has formed a lump. It’s called benign if it grows slowly and is self-limiting; that is, if it doesn’t have the capacity to invade nearby tissues and spread beyond its original site.

A malignant, or cancerous, tumor, on the other hand, is innately dangerous because its cells can divide uncontrollably and produce virtually immortal daughter cells. Malignant tumor cells can penetrate and destroy adjacent tissue, and can metastasize, or travel through the circulation to distant parts of the body and form new tumors.

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Mental Fog, Chemotherapy Side Effect, Is Real and Often Treatable

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Not long ago, doctors were often skeptical when cancer patients who had undergone chemotherapy complained that they were mentally foggy; unable to plan a week’s worth of meals or organize their finances as they could before. Patients called this side effect “chemobrain” and were frustrated by the lack of recognition – or suggested remedies – from their physicians. Read more

Finding a Way to Help Cancer Patients – Again and Again

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Bob Hurkett doesn’t know what became of the little girl he first heard of in 1998, but he thinks about her often. She was 5 years old and needed a bone marrow transplant. Hurkett and his wife, Jane, attended a donor drive hosted by the girl’s family where their blood was drawn and tested as a possible match.

Neither was a match but Hurkett felt compelled to help. When he learned about the need for platelets – which are vitally important for cancer patients as a means of replacing their own depleted supplies, as well as for trauma victims and other critically ill adults and children –he volunteered to donate.

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Want to Fight Cancer with Your Fork? There’s an App for That

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Nutrition plays a large role in our health. That’s especially true for cancer patients. Whether it is eating a diet rich in cancer-fighting nutrients or managing treatment side effects, healthy eating habits are an important part of cancer care. Dana-Farber’s free iPhone app provides recipes and nutrition information that’s helpful not only for cancer patients but for anyone who wants to follow a healthy diet.

Ask the Nutritionist: Recipes for Fighting Cancer contains more than 100 easy-to-prepare recipes ranging from nutritious snacks to main dishes and desserts. You can access a list of ingredients, directions on how to prepare the dish, a shopping list, nutrition tips, and nutritional analysis information in a standard USDA label format. New recipes are added each month.

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Better Coverage for Oral Chemo: Why It Matters

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When Gov. Deval Patrick signed an oral chemotherapy parity bill into law on January 5, Massachusetts joined more than 20 states requiring health plans to cover oral cancer pills at a rate no less favorable than standard intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. The new law tells insurers that they cannot require higher patient costs for oral chemotherapy, and it helps ensure that all forms of chemotherapy are accessible and affordable to Massachusetts cancer patients. Read more

Managing Cancer Risk: Miss America Contestant’s Decision Puts Genetics and Cancer Center Stage

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Win or lose, Miss America contestant Allyn Rose made news with her decision to undergo a double mastectomy. According to the Associated Press, Rose, who lost her mother to breast cancer, inherited a rare genetic mutation which might put her at greater risk for developing cancer.

Her decision to have the preventive surgery has sparked questions about genetics, cancer risk and strategies for preventing cancer.

If you have a question about genetic factors that increase cancer risk, you can ask the Dana-Farber cancer genetics team.

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How to Protect Cancer Patients from Flu

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by Saul Weingart, MD, PhD

Flu has arrived in the northeast with a vengeance. The City of Boston declared the flu epidemic a public health emergency. Perhaps someone you know has been sick with the flu.

Influenza can be serious for anyone, but for a cancer patient, the stakes are higher. Read more

Death Rates from Cancer Continue to Drop, Some Types Can Be Prevented

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Faced with an abundance of cancer stories in the news and our own personal experiences with cancer, we may fear that there’s a growing “epidemic” of the disease.

Not so. A new report says that overall, deaths from cancer are continuing to decline, as they have for nearly two decades. Read more

Exercise During Cancer: Getting Started

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by Nancy Campbell, MS

“How soon can I start exercising after I start cancer treatment?” It’s a question I hear often from patients who visit me for a fitness consult or class at Dana-Farber.

My answer? “As soon as possible.”

While it may seem counterintuitive, exercise offers key benefits for cancer patients – even those undergoing difficult treatments. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to give yourself an extra boost during and after cancer treatment. Read more