Understanding Genomics and Cancer

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If the new era of “targeted” cancer drugs and personalized treatments for patients realizes its promise, the power of genomics will get a lot of the credit. Genomics is one of the most commonly heard terms in cancer research and biotech companies today – but what does it really mean? What is genomics? Most people know that genetics is the study of genes and how they affect health and disease, and it’s been said that that cancer is a disease of genes. Today, that’s been amended – cancer is a disease of the genome – the entire complement of human …

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When Should I Begin Regular Mammograms?

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For women weighing whether to have a mammogram for early detection of breast cancer, the findings of some recent studies can seem especially confusing. This month, a team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School published a review of recent mammography studies. They concluded that, for women in their 40s, the benefits of mammograms aren’t as great as they’re often touted to be, and the potential downsides – such as the likelihood of having a repeat screening or biopsy that doesn’t find cancer – are greater than for older women. The benefits of mammography vary with …

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CELLmates Take on Boston Marathon

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By Tim O’Neill In 2006, my then 33-years-young wife, Kirsten, was diagnosed with Stage III rectal cancer. Her diagnosis was completely unexpected; she was young, a non-smoker and in overall good health. She had chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. Thankfully, we navigated the treatment with an excellent team of healthcare providers, loving family and caring friends. About three months into her treatment I decided to address a nagging swollen lymph node under my jaw. Fully expecting a Lyme disease diagnosis, I was dismissive. But considering what my wife was going through, I thought I’d better be safe than sorry. I never …

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New Experimental Breast Cancer Drug Shows Promise

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Reports of an experimental drug that slowed advanced breast cancer in a clinical trial have stirred excitement at a national research meeting and breathed new life into a cancer-fighting strategy that had seemed to falter. In one study, the drug, palbociclib, doubled the length of time without disease progression in patients with metastatic estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer that had spread beyond the breast, compared with women who took only a hormonal treatment, researchers reported at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in early April. Women in the study who received palbociclib also took the hormonal treatment, letrozole. Palbociclib is the …

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Young Patient Inspires with Fashion and Beauty Blog

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When 15-year-old Karina Moreira sat down with Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen in December 2013, the two traded beauty tips, talked fashion, and took turns applying makeup. They spoke in their native Portuguese and laughed with family and friends. The experience, Moreira says, one that she will remember for the rest of her life. But the two talked about more than just eye shadow and clothes; they also talked about life and Moreira’s battle with bone cancer. Bundchen, who surprised Moreira at home, offered some advice for the young girl: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” “My life may be …

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How a Port Can Make Cancer Treatments Easier

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For more than five years, Sally Boyd had repeated needle punctures in her arm for blood draws, chemotherapy, and other procedures for multiple myeloma. “The nurses said I had good veins, so at first it was easy for them to insert the needle,” Boyd recalls. “But as time went on, my arms were bruised and sore.” Dana-Farber has led the way in introducing new therapies that have transformed this type of blood cancer from a fatal disease to a chronic illness. However, living with multiple myeloma or other types of cancer often calls for procedures involving needles. Today, Boyd has …

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Does Talcum Powder Cause Ovarian Cancer?

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It’s been suggested that regular use of talcum powder products in the genital area might increase the possibility of ovarian cancer. In theory, particles of talc could travel through the reproductive tract to the ovaries and cause cancer. Research on this potential link has yielded mixed findings, with some studies finding a small increase in risk. For example, a study published in 2013 led by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found a 25 percent increase in risk for women using talcum powder in the genital area, but other studies haven’t shown any elevated risk. All of these studies suffer …

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To Share or Not to Share? That is the Question

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One of the most difficult aspects of having cancer is deciding who to tell and when. For young adults who may be attending college, maintaining an active social life, or starting a family, these questions are especially critical. Karen Fasciano, PsyD, and her colleagues in the Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), addressed these questions and others at the 11th annual Young Adult Cancer Conference last month. Bruce MacDonald, MSW, LICSW, who leads the young adult cancer support group at DF/BWCC, spoke with patients about sharing their diagnoses with three critical groups: Family and Friends While …

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Debunking Common Nutrition Myths

By Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD For cancer patients, a healthy, balanced diet is important for managing symptoms and promoting survivorship and overall wellness. But in a world where it’s nearly impossible to tell one fad diet from the next, it can be difficult to determine which foods are actually good for you. We’re debunking some of the common myths about certain foods: