A Special Curriculum: Teachers Tell Their Students About Cancer

lymphoma, teaching

Gina Johnson and Connie Grayson have a combined 53 years teaching in the public school system. Last year, however, their cancer diagnoses prompted them to incorporate a new element into their lesson plans. “When I was diagnosed with lymphoma in September 2015, one of my student’s moms had just passed away from cancer,” says Grayson, a fourth-grade teacher at the Arthur T. Cummings Elementary School in Winthrop, Mass. “I wanted to teach my students about cancer and let them know that not everyone who has cancer dies from it.” Grayson gathered books and videos to help explain her diagnosis to …

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What Older Women Should Know About Breast Cancer

Pat Kartiganer and Eric Winer

American women have a 12 percent lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, the second most common cancer in women. While young women do get breast cancer, the disease is much more common in women aged 60 and older. Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, explains what older women should know about breast cancer: Menopause can impact breast cancer risk. The risk of breast cancer increases with age, and the age at which a woman enters menopause can also impact her risk. A woman who enters menopause …

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Five Tips for Facing a Rare Cancer

rare cancer, becky sail

By Becky Sail At age 22, I was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma called aggressive angiomyxoma – say that 10 times fast. When my parents and I got the news we asked the doctor, “Is it cancer?” He responded, “That is a complicated question.” He said he had never seen it before and I needed to get to New York or Boston – there were only 250 reported cases in the world, ever. Fortunately, my job relocated me to Boston and I was able to choose Dana-Farber for my care, which I am so grateful for. I have always faced …

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Can Coffee Affect Colon Cancer Risk or Survival?

colon cancer, coffee

Colon cancer patients who drink several cups of coffee daily may have a significantly lower risk of recurrence after treatment and an improved chance of cure. That’s the provocative finding of a large study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The research is the first to link colon cancer recurrence and coffee;  it comes on the heels of a number of reports in recent years suggesting coffee consumption may offer some protection against various types of cancer, including postmenopausal breast cancer, melanoma, liver cancer, advanced prostate cancer. However, the researchers, led by Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the …

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How to Stay Young and in Love as a Cancer Caregiver

Heather and Harry April 2011

By Heather Francis Some people worry when they get married that they won’t be able to handle the challenges of life as a couple. That won’t be a problem for my fiancé and me. Harry and I started dating in April 2011, when I was 24 and he was 25. Soon after, he started feeling fatigued, having night sweats, and getting nose bleeds. That October he found out he had Stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma. The doctors – prior to his coming to Dana-Farber – told Harry his cancer was easily treatable. He would have six months of chemotherapy, and the …

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How to Care for Your Skin After Cancer Treatment

skin care, cancer treatment

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may cause changes to your skin during and after cancer treatment. Follow these tips and check in with your doctor regularly to ensure your skin is in the healthiest condition possible throughout your cancer experience. Chemotherapy Dry skin is a common side effect of chemotherapy. If you experience dry skin, using mild soaps and lukewarm (not hot) water, cleansing lotions, and creams may help. You should also avoid hormone creams, such as hydrocortisone, which can be harmful to the skin. Moisturizers may also help combat dry skin. For the most effective results, apply moisturizer while your …

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I Have Metastatic Breast Cancer: What’s My Prognosis?

Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH

By Rachel A. Freedman, MD, MPH Metastatic breast cancer generally means that the cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes under the arm. For approximately 10 percent of women with breast cancer, the disease has metastasized when they are first diagnosed, but metastatic disease can also occur when cancer returns after previous treatment. The prognosis is not the same for all metastatic breast cancer patients and can vary tremendously based upon multiple factors, including your breast cancer subtype (such as estrogen receptor [or ER] status and human epidermal growth factor receptor [or HER2] status), the degree of …

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Five Things You Need to Know About Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Nuts may help prevent certain cancers.

While one of the most common cancers in both men and women, colorectal cancer remains a very preventable disease, says Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, clinical director of Dana-Farber’s Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology. “Most of these cancers develop over a period of years,” he says. “While not preventable in everyone, the earlier you detect the disease, the more curable it is.” Here are some tips from Meyerhardt on ways to reduce your risk. Live a healthy lifestyle. “There are various dietary factors that play a role in colorectal cancer,” explains Meyerhardt. “The one that’s the most consistently shown in studies is …

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What Questions Should You Ask When Cancer Treatment Ends?

The successful end of cancer treatment is a welcome milestone for any patient, but it’s also the beginning of an important new chapter. Here are some questions to ask your care team at the end of treatment to help you live well beyond cancer: Can I get a treatment summary and survivorship care plan? A treatment summary will usually include your cancer diagnosis and describe the medical care that you received. A survivorship care plan will describe follow-up screenings you might need, as well as preventive measures to help prevent future health problems. It may also offer tips for managing …

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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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