Five Ways to Support Families Dealing with Childhood Cancer

By Jane Roper When our five-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia (ALL) last summer, our world was turned upside down. Extended hospital stays, twice weekly clinic visits, the side effects of chemo and the constant possibility of unexpected hospital admissions mean stress and exhaustion for all of us. And looming in the background of it all is the unspoken worry: will our daughter get through this?

Six Tips to Help Young Adults Cope with Cancer

By Eric Schuller Getting cancer can be particularly difficult for young adults – classified by the National Cancer Institute as ages 15 to 39. Because the disease is relatively rare in this age group, these younger patients may find themselves isolated – too old to fit easily into childhood cancer programs, and too young to find peers in adult clinics (most people diagnosed with cancer are 55 or older). But the outlook is getting brighter.

Six Things to Do When You Learn You Have Cancer

By Nancy Borstelmann, LICSW, MPH A cancer diagnosis can put even the most organized person into a state of disarray. That’s not surprising, because it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and out of control in the face of such stress. But there are steps you can take to ensure you’re best prepared for the road ahead. Don’t forget to:

Dr. Jay Harris discusses the link between radiation therapy for breast cancer and heart disease

By Robert Levy In a recent study, Oxford University researchers reported that although radiation therapy is a critical tool for the treatment of women with breast cancer, it can also raise their risk of a heart attack or heart disease later in life. The study was based on a review of medical records of 2,168 women in Sweden and Denmark who received radiation therapy for breast cancer between 1958 and 2001, and who were under age 70 at the time. News coverage of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has drawn new attention to the heart …

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How Do Cancer Drugs Block Pathways?

by Richard Saltus    Cells are like young children – they need a lot of guidance on how to behave. Your body’s cells are constantly getting that help – in the form of hormones, growth factors, and other chemicals telling them when to rest, grow, duplicate their DNA, divide, or even self-destruct. These commands are relayed from the cell’s surface to its nucleus by molecular pathways, also called signaling pathways, which are a series of interacting proteins that relay cellular messages, much as cell phone towers relay phone calls. When the commands reach the cell nucleus, they activate or turn …

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Should I Get a Colonoscopy?

by Richard Saltus Colonoscopy exams get a bad rap. Even though the exam is brief and painless, many people fear and avoid them. Roughly 40 percent of Americans for whom they are recommended are not getting colonoscopies. Yet colonoscopy is one of the most effective of all cancer prevention methods. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 142,820 diagnoses of colorectal cancer in 2013 and 50,830 people will die of the disease.  As many as 60 percent of colon cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone 50 years old or above underwent colonoscopies, according to the Centers for Disease …

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What Happens If You’re Allergic to Your Chemo Drugs?

By Tara Shuman Before Oct. 31, 2012, I would have probably guessed that desensitization was a process invented by mental health professionals to make really sensitive people less sensitive. I might have inquired about the cost to put my four-year-old son through “desensitization” so that he wouldn’t throw such a fit when he lost a game of knee hockey in our basement. Now I know that desensitization is a life-saving process necessary to treat cancer patients like me.

Zeroing In On Dark Matter

By Richard Saltus If the human genome – the complete set of  DNA blueprints in a cell for building a human being — is truly “the book of life, ”  as it has been called, then 99 percent of life’s book is gobbledygook. Only 1 percent of the DNA contains genetic instructions for making the body’s proteins; most of the rest of it has no known purpose, earning it the unappealing title of “junk DNA” or the more ominous sounding “dark matter.” In addition to containing all of life’s necessary genetic instructions, the 1 percent had also been home to …

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How to Eat Better and Fight Cancer with Your Fork

By MacKenzie Kimball Good nutrition is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle and, according to Dana-Farber Nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, it can also help in the battle against cancer. “Good nutrition is really important for supporting a healthy immune system, which helps the healing process, and healthy eating can even help to alleviate side effects or symptoms related to cancer and treatment, such as fatigue, constipation, nausea, and mouth sores,” Kennedy says.

Sequestration Could Slow the Pace of Biomedical Research

By Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD The automatic budget cuts (or sequestration) that went into to effect as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, could have a chilling long-term effect on scientific research in the United States. The automatic cuts will slash 5.1 percent – or about $1.6 billion in 2013 alone – from the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the principal funder of biomedical research in the United States, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is a major supporter of research at Dana-Farber.