Archive for February 28, 2014

Why is Breast Cancer on the Rise Worldwide?

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The number of deaths from breast cancer has dropped over the past decade in the United States, but around the world, especially in less-developed countries, the number is rising. A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2013 said 522,000 women died from breast cancer in 2012 – a 14 percent increase compared with 2008.

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New Drugs Bring Optimism to Graft-Versus-Host Disease Treatment

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Outcomes are gradually improving for patients who suffer from graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), one of the most serious complications of stem cell transplantation, and researchers are optimistic that further advances may be on the way.

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How to Discuss Difficult Medical Decisions with Your Family

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By Bethany-Rose Daubman, MD

As a palliative care physician, part of my job is to help foster communication among family members making difficult health care decisions. This often relates to end-of-life matters, a topic I’ve grown comfortable with. In the department of psychosocial oncology and palliative care at Dana-Farber, my colleagues and I describe health care proxies and power of attorneys, discuss the differences between allowing a loved one a natural death and “pulling the plug,” and use a family’s natural rhythms of communication to guide these conversations.

You’d think my own family would have all of this figured out, but sadly, you’d be wrong.

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A History of Multiple Myeloma Advances

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Not long ago, a diagnosis of multiple myeloma — a cancer of the bone marrow — carried with it a very poor prognosis, with median survival estimates of just two to three years. Now, thanks in large part to research and treatment advances at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), this disease is for many patients a chronic, and more manageable disease, with prognosis now improved to median survivals of seven to ten years.

Here is a look at how DF/BWCC physician-scientists and patients have helped lead the way toward improved treatment for multiple myeloma over the past three decades.

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Does Deodorant/Antiperspirant Cause Breast Cancer?

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Rumors of a link between deodorant/antiperspirant and breast cancer have been around for nearly 20 years. The theory is that by blocking sweat glands in the armpits (particularly in women who shave their underarms), antiperspirants allow toxic compounds to accumulate in the underarm lymph nodes near the breasts, prompting cancer to develop.

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Should I Take Vitamins and Supplements During Cancer Treatment?

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Getting the nutrients your body needs isn’t always easy, especially when certain treatments, such as chemotherapy, may make food less desirable. Many people consider taking vitamins and supplements to ensure optimal health, but, according to Dana-Farber nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, it is important to think about the benefits of “food first.”

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Progress and Promise in Prostate Cancer Research

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In prostate cancer – the most common cancer in men aside from skin cancer – scientists are working to answer some of the most basic questions about the disease while developing an array of new treatments.

Using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, doctors are often able to detect prostate cancer at an early stage. But it remains difficult to determine which prostate cancers are likely to spread – and therefore require aggressive treatment – and which are either idle or slow-growing, and can be dealt with by “observation or active surveillance.” This uncertainty could result in unnecessary treatment for some patients.

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Feedback Friday: How to Support Cancer Patients

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Cancer does not have to be a solo journey. Every diagnosis involves doctors, nurses, family members and friends. Sometimes, support from these people can give that extra push to get you through a chemo infusion, or another radiation treatment.

We recently asked our Facebook followers about the best support they’ve received as a patient, or provided as a caregiver. Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories. Here is a sample of they had to say:

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Brokaw Diagnosis: What is Multiple Myeloma?

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NBC News’ Tom Brokaw, 74, revealed this week he has multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. The disease, also known as plasma cell myeloma, will be diagnosed in more than 24,000 Americans this year.

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How to Prevent and Manage Lymphedema

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Following radiation treatment or surgery to remove lymph nodes (lymphadenectomy), patients can develop lymphedema, a condition that involves abnormal swelling, usually in the arms or the legs, due to an accumulation of lymphatic fluids. This fluid buildup is caused by blockage or removal of lymph nodes or lymph vessels.

Lymphedema is often associated with breast cancer patients, but can result from treatment of other cancers, such as melanoma, prostate, or advanced gynecological cancer.

In addition to discomfort, lymphedema can also lead to infection, as the fluid buildup can increase bacteria growth. Pay attention to signs of infection, including pain, heat, swelling, rash blistering, redness, and fever. If you notice these symptoms, call your physician immediately.

Below are some ways to prevent infection and manage lymphedema symptoms that arise:

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