One Year After My Stem Cell Transplant — What I’ve Learned

by Martha Laperle When my son Ryan ran the Boston Marathon this year, I watched him with a special level of pride. Not only had he completed his first-ever marathon in four hours, but he was running, in large part, because of me. Just over a year earlier, at the age of 57, I had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a diagnosis that turned my life upside down and led to weeks of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC). Ryan was running to raise funds for the …

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Is a Preventive Mastectomy the Right Choice For You?

Does having cancer in one breast increase the risk of cancer occurring in the other, healthy breast? Young women with breast cancer often respond with a “yes” and overestimate the need to have the healthy breast surgically removed, according to a recent study by Dana-Farber investigators. However, the actual risk of cancer occurring in the healthy breast of those women without a genetic predisposition to breast cancer is only two to four percent.

Six Important Questions About Childhood Cancer

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. We asked Lisa Diller, MD, chief medical officer at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, to answer these important questions. What signs might lead a child’s pediatrician to suspect cancer? Cancer is very diverse, and diagnosis is further complicated because many signs and symptoms—like fever, bruising and headaches—are normal in healthy children.

Making ‘Em Laugh: 12-year-old Cancer Patient Compiles Joke Book

Jack Robinson is a special kid. Diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 11, he tackled treatment if not with a smile on his face, then with a joke on his lips… or more accurately, on paper. The Massachusetts resident compiled and edited a joke book called, “Make ‘em Laugh” to help himself, and other kids who were sick. It was drafted from hundreds of jokes, riddles, and drawings submitted by Robinson and other kids cared for in the Jimmy Fund Clinic and the inpatient oncology floors at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Dating and Cancer 101

by Amy Atwood SWF, Bald, Undergoing Chemo and Radiation… Oh yeah, isn’t that the first profile you would click on if you were searching for the love of your life or even just a new ‘friend’ online? Dating in itself – or, I should say, finding someone to date – is never easy. Finding someone when you happen to be bald, going through chemo and/or making daily trips to the hospital for radiation makes it a zillion times more complicated. I know. I’ve tried it.

What Should You Do if You’re Diagnosed with DCIS?

A group of specialists at the National Cancer Institute recently issued a report calling for a redefinition of the word “cancer,” suggesting that it no longer be applied to certain premalignant and non-lethal conditions. Such a change, the panel wrote, may ease the fears of patients, making them less inclined to seek unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments. The findings reinforce earlier studies by physicians at Dana-Farbers’ Susan F. Smith Centers for Women’s Cancers and others. An example of this kind of condition is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), in which cancerous cells are confined to the milk ducts of the breast. …

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Confronting the Mental Challenges of Cancer Treatment

by Richard Saltus Living with cancer is a physical and emotional challenge, but people may also find it hampers their thought processes and memory. Often the deficits are temporary, but sometimes they persist or appear months or years later as delayed effects. Cognitive difficulties, says Clare Humphreys, PhD, a neuropsychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “are caused not just by the direct effect of cancer, but also the effects of treatment, as well as factors like pain, disrupted sleep, anxiety, and depression.”

Tips for Talking to Your Children About Genetic Test Results

There are many decisions parents face after testing for genetic cancer risk, including whether to tell their children and how to approach the conversation. If you decide to talk to your children about the test results, allow yourself some time to process the information; you want to be calm and clear when you talk with them. Remember that you know your children best and there are no set rules for talking to kids about genetic tests.

Making Fertility Decisions Post-Diagnosis

Liz Moroney celebrated her 23rd birthday in an unusual place — at a fertility clinic. Liz, a recent college graduate, wanted to plan for having children before it was too late. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in June 2010, she spent 4 months in chemotherapy treatment in New York. Afterward, she and her reproductive endocrinologist watched her fertility numbers dwindle over a year of visits. Her endocrinologist was skeptical of the effectiveness of fertility treatment; So, too, was Liz.