Adult Leukemia: Five Things You Need to Know

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More than 52,000 new cases of adult leukemia are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Although it is one of the more common childhood cancers, leukemia is found more often in older adults. As September marks Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, we look at some important facts about adult leukemia: 1.     What are the different types of leukemia? There are three main types of leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood: Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) – AML causes the bone marrow to produce immature white blood cells (called myeloblasts). As a result, patients may have a very high or …

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New Surgery Technique Expands Treatment Options for Brain Tumor Patients

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For many patients with brain tumors or other abnormal tissue located deep in the brain, treatment options have been limited. Last year, Jill Colter, now 50, discovered that a brain tumor resulting from Stage IV melanoma had returned. “Several years earlier, I had treatment with surgery and radiation, but the tumor came back,” Jill said. Due to the location of Jill’s tumor and her prior radiation, surgery and further radiation weren’t possible to treat her tumor. Colter was referred to neurosurgeon Alexandra Golby, MD, director of image-guided neurosurgery and clinical co-director of the Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) Suite …

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Months After Transplant, Teen Hits the Soccer Field

Some 100 days after receiving a stem cell transplant to cure his severe aplastic anemia, 13-year-old Behaylu Barry still couldn’t invite friends into his home. He can’t return to school until January, when his immune system will finally be strong enough to fight the pathogens present in indoor spaces. Yet  Behaylu was doing so well that he was cleared to play soccer – outdoors, of course — for the first time since February, when he was diagnosed with the life-threatening blood disorder. On August 23, Behaylu walked onto the field with the Exeter (N.H.) Hawks for a two-game pre-season tournament. …

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Get the Facts on Metastatic Breast Cancer

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When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body it is known as metastatic breast cancer (MBC), or metastatic disease. MBC is also sometimes referred to as advanced stage breast cancer or stage IV breast cancer. Although there is no cure for MBC, it is treatable. Thanks to new treatments developed through clinical trials, women with MBC are often able to lead full, active lifestyles with a good quality of life. We sat down with Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH, a breast oncologist with the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, to learn more:   Are there …

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How is Research Improving Treatment of Head and Neck Cancers?

Jochen Lorch, M.D. Head and Neck oncology.

Head and neck cancers account for 3 to 5 percent of all cancers in the United States and can occur in the oral and nasal cavities, the sinuses, the throat, the larynx, the salivary glands, and the thyroid. When diagnosed early, many head and neck cancers can be cured with combinations of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Researchers in the Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center have shown that carefully tailored regimens involving surgery and combined chemotherapy/radiation can often save tissues and structures like the larynx and vocal cords, which are vital to good quality …

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Patient and Doctor Come Full Circle

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Kate Franklin was 3½-years old in August 2000, when her mother brought her to the Boston Children’s Hospital emergency room because she was bruising easily and couldn’t seem to shake a strep throat. Loren Walensky, MD, PhD, had just started his fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology in July, and that night Kate Franklin became one of the first patients he diagnosed with cancer. When Walensky told Emily Franklin that her daughter had leukemia, the mother placed her hands on the doctor’s shoulders, and, in a moment that Walensky says he will never forget, she said, “I will see you at her …

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Mother and Son, Both Cancer Survivors, Share Their Story on Radio-Telethon

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When Lisa Robert is interviewed at Fenway Park  for the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon presented by Arbella Insurance Foundation (Aug 19-20), her mind will no doubt drift back to 1976, when she was a 7-year-old leukemia patient at Dana-Farber and had the thrill of her life. She threw out the first pitch of the season at Fenway to Boston Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk. Lisa won’t be the only member of her family reminiscing on air about pediatric cancer. Her son, Josh Robert, now 17, was treated at Dana-Farber in 2009 for Burkitt’s lymphoma. Two generations of Jimmy Fund Clinic …

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Can Melanoma Affect Any Skin Type?

Yawkey Center for Cancer Care healing garden.

Melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, gets its name from the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes from which tumors can develop. These cells manufacture the dark pigment, melanin. When a human develops these cells, they populate not only the skin, but also other organs including the back of the eye and the nervous system. Melanin strongly absorbs sunlight and helps to protect the skin from ultraviolet light that damages DNA, which can contribute to the development of cancer. Because people with dark skin have more protective melanin, they are at lower risk of developing melanoma than those with light skin. However, it …

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Five Questions About Vitamin D

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Sometimes known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced by the body in response to sunlight, vitamin D is important for maintaining strong bones and ensuring healthy functioning of the lungs, cardiovascular system, immune system, and brain. Because of concerns that excessive sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, some people may avoid spending much time outdoors – potentially lowering their vitamin D levels if they don’t get enough of the vitamin through diet or supplements. Here are some vitamin D basics:  How does vitamin D work in the body? It plays an important role in regulating the amounts of …

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Post-Traumatic Stress and Cancer

Many associate post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, with veterans returning home from war, or those involved in similarly violent scenarios. But PTSD can occur after any life-threatening traumatic event – including a serious illness like cancer. “It’s common for cancer patients, even if they don’t have full-blown PTSD, to have some of the symptoms of it,” says Fremonta Meyer, MD, of Dana-Farber’s department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, who notes PTSD rates among cancer survivors are slightly higher than the general population. Symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the traumatic event, usually in the form of flashbacks or nightmares; avoidance; …

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