Do All BRCA Mutations Come with the Same Cancer Risk?

Gentic testing for breast and ovarian cancer patients.

Women born with mutations in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 have an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, but the degree of increase depends on a variety of factors. Not all mutations within these genes raise the risk equally. A study published earlier this year tracked breast and ovarian cancer occurrences over a 75-year period in 31,000 women who had inherited mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2. The researchers found that mutations at either end of the BRCA1 gene increased the risk of breast cancer more than the risk of ovarian cancer. A group of mutations that occur in the middle …

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At 91 Years Old, Sandy Cunningham Keeps On Volunteering for Cancer Patients

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Ingersoll “Sandy” Cunningham has the dignified, silver-haired appearance of a man you’d expect to find sipping iced tea at the country club. So what is this Harvard-educated great-grandfather doing pushing food carts through the hallways of Dana-Farber, handing out sandwiches to patients? “You’ve got to have some objective when you get up in the morning, a purpose and a place to be,” says Cunningham, 91, a retired investment advisor, and for the last 16 years, a weekly volunteer at Dana-Farber. “This is mine. I used to take care of people and their money; now I take care of people facing …

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Coping with Breast Cancer as a Young Adult

Young women breast cancer Hangout

Young women with breast cancer face many unique emotional challenges: They may be in college, dating, starting a career, raising a family, or trying to start one. “Cancer disrupts many aspects of young adulthood such as family planning, careers, relationships, sexuality, and sexual health,” said Karen Fasciano, PsyD, clinical psychologist and director of Dana-Farber’s Young Adult Program, who recently joined four young women in different stages of breast cancer treatment to discuss their experiences. During a Google+ Hangout, Heidi Floyd, Nadia Tase, Danielle Ameden, and Beverly McKee, MSW, LCSW, shared with viewers the challenges they faced, ways they found support …

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Approval of Targeted Lung Cancer Drug Iressa Culminates Long Research Trail

precision medicine

The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug Iressa® for a form of metastatic lung cancer represents a return to prominence for the compound that launched the era of targeted therapy in lung cancer – even if that wasn’t clear at the time of its original clinical trial in patients. The FDA approved Iressa (gefitinib) as a first-line treatment for patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumor cells harbor specific mutations in the gene EGFR. “The approval of Iressa is important because newly diagnosed patients with EGFR-mutant lung cancer now have more treatment options,” said Pasi A. …

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How Is Surgery Used to Treat Gynecologic Cancers?

Gynecologic cancer surgery

Many associate cancer treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but for many women with gynecologic cancers, surgery is often the first line of defense. Colleen Feltmate, MD, director of minimally invasive surgery in gynecologic oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), shares insight into surgical options to treat these cancers.   Minimally Invasive vs. Open Surgeries Minimally invasive surgery, or laparoscopy, is increasingly used in gynecologic cancers, often with the assistance of a robot. Robotic surgery can give surgeons improved control and precision during intricate procedures, and requires only a few small incisions, as opposed to larger, open surgeries. …

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Comedian Gets Last Laugh on Cancer

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Joe Yannetty earns a living making people laugh, so when it came to thanking his caregivers at Dana-Farber/New Hampshire Oncology-Hematology (DF/NHOH) for the successful treatment of his throat cancer, candy or flowers just wasn’t going to cut it. For Yannetty, a Boston-based comedian since 1983, gratitude was best expressed by doing what he does best: taking the stage. “When I got cancer, I didn’t know if I’d ever perform again,” he says. “They saved my life and helped me smile again.” After a tonsillectomy in February 2014 helped alert doctors to Yannetty’s cancer, he knew Dana-Farber was where he wanted to go. …

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How I Told My Young Children I Had Cancer

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By Gabby Spear When my doctor first told me I had breast cancer, there was almost no time to take it in. I called my husband Andy, told him, and then had to go pick up our older daughter, Emma, at after school care. We were going to temple for Friday night services, and as I was settling Emma and Molly in at the synagogue I was also calling my sister with the news. Right away, I learned a powerful lesson: even at the outset of your diagnosis, the world doesn’t stop. Life goes on and you need to go …

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Rhythm Therapy: How Drum Circles Help Patients Cope with Cancer

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Zeynep Aytekin, a 47-year-old management consultant, has always wanted to participate in a drum and rhythm class. Now, as a breast cancer patient at Dana-Farber, she has the opportunity to let loose her inner percussionist. After some encouragement from a friend, whom she met at the Gentle Hatha Yoga, Aytekin joined the drum circle group offered through Dana-Farber’s Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies. The drum circle, Aytekin says, is a great way to spend her free time while she is away from her home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and receiving radiation treatment in Boston. “It has made me …

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What Is the Difference Between Hodgkin Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Checking lymph nodes

Although the diseases may sound similar, there are a variety of differences between Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. We spoke with Arnold Freedman, MD, of the Adult Lymphoma Program at Dana-Farber, to learn more. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are malignancies of a family of white blood cells known as lymphocytes, which help the body fight off infections and other diseases. Hodgkin lymphoma is marked by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells, which are mature B cells that have become malignant, are unusually large, and carry more than one nucleus. The first sign of the disease is often the appearance of enlarged …

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Five Things You Need to Know About Penile Cancer

Mark Preston, MD

Penile cancer is a rare disease, affecting just 1 in 100,000 men in North American and Europe, in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the penis. While not common in the United States, it can account for up to 10 percent of male cancers in parts of Asia, South America, and Africa. Here are five things you should know about penile cancer. What are the risk factors for penile cancer? Men older than 60 and those with poor personal hygiene, who have many sexual partners, or use tobacco products, are at a higher risk of developing penile cancer. Uncircumcised …

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