Survivor Uses Reiki and ‘Button Therapy’ to Help Others Facing Cancer

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As a girl, Paula Kaufman loved playing with the buttons that her grandmother, a seamstress, had in abundance. Later, while in treatment for stage III colorectal cancer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Kaufman – then a mother of three in her late 30s – gained strength from a jar of buttons her grandmother bequeathed to her. “When you have cancer, you feel like you’re hanging by a thread,” Kaufman explains. “The connections you make with other people are the buttons that pull you through.” Kaufman’s caregivers, family, and friends served as her buttons, and she drew further comfort from Reiki, a …

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Employee Elves Bring Holiday Cheer to Dana-Farber Patients

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For many, the holiday season is a time of gift-giving, warm meals, and celebration. But, for families with limited financial resources who are dealing with cancer treatment, the holidays can be overwhelming and stressful. That’s where Ellen Casey-Magleby and Deborah Toffler, MSW, LCSW, come in. Casey-Magleby, program administrator for Social Work, and Toffler, director of Patient and Family Programs and Services, lead Dana-Farber’s Seasonal Giving Program, which provides holiday support to current Dana-Farber patients and their families in need of financial assistance. The program is fueled by Institute employees and external donors, with the goal of giving patients gift cards …

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Tips and Advice for Taking Oral Chemotherapy

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By Thomas Kochanek, PhD When we think of chemotherapy, most of us imagine a cancer patient hooked up to an IV in a hospital setting, getting his or her treatment through infusion. While this image is accurate, cancer treatment increasingly takes place at home, as patients receive oral chemotherapy or other types of anti-cancer drugs through pills, tablets, and liquids. Infusion and oral chemo are not necessarily mutually exclusive, either. Many patients begin with one and transition to the other; others, like me, are on several drugs, receiving one by infusion and another by pill. Since I was diagnosed with multiple …

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BRCA-Positive Mom Supports Ovarian Cancer Research for Future Generations

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Mimi Gallagher never missed a gynecologist appointment. Her maternal grandmother died from ovarian cancer in her early 70s, and Gallagher, at 46, was well aware of her risk. Despite her diligence, and years of worry-free trips to the gynecologist, the mother of two was diagnosed with stage III c ovarian cancer. Troubling symptoms in July 2012, including bloating, constipation, and lethargy, led Gallagher to visit her gynecologist, primary care physician, and a gastrointestinal specialist, but, she says, “Ovarian cancer was never on anyone’s radar.” However, a vaginal ultrasound soon confirmed her cancer, and she was referred to a surgeon who …

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What to Know About Mastectomy Clothing: Bras, Swimsuits and Insurance

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Mastectomy bra with a space for a prosthesis. For many women with breast cancer, a mastectomy, or removal of the breast, is a necessary part of treatment. Although breast reconstruction is available to most women, some choose to use prosthetics to replace the missing breast(s). If a patient decides to use prosthetics, there are special types of apparel, known as mastectomy clothing, which can help provide comfort and a natural appearance. Here are some common questions around prostheses and mastectomy clothing: What is a breast prosthesis? Read more: Foods to Keep in Your Diet Before and After a Mastectomy Is a …

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Tom Brokaw: What It Means to Have Cancer

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Tom Brokaw (left) meets with Dana-Farber President and CEO Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD. The world is divided between those who are sympathetic to their friends and family who have cancer and those who have cancer and are empathetic with each other, says Tom Brokaw, the former “NBC Nightly News” anchor. Brokaw, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in August 2013, shares his cancer story in the video below. Read more: What is Multiple Myeloma? A History of Multiple Myeloma Advances He advises new patients to be wary of Google searches, praises the work of cancer researchers, and recounts the …

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How to Help Patients During the Holidays

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The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends, but the season can bring challenges for cancer patients and those who have recently completed treatment. The stresses of cancer may leave them feeling out of touch or overburdened with traditional holiday responsibilities. If someone you know is in, or has recently completed, treatment for cancer, consider these tips for helping during the holidays. Let the patient take the lead. Some people will want to celebrate the holiday season as they always have, but others may want to step back and be less festive. Even if treatment is over, …

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Five Things Nonsmokers Need to Know About Lung Cancer

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Lung cancer remains the most deadly form of cancer in the United States, with nearly 160,000 deaths annually and more than 224,000 new cases expected in 2014. While many lung cancer diagnoses are linked to smoking, nonsmokers can develop the disease as well and should be aware of their risks. Anyone can get lung cancer. Although smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, anyone with lungs is susceptible to this disease. Air pollution and exposure to asbestos, radon, chromium, nickel, arsenic, soot, or tar are also causes. Individuals who have been treated with radiation therapy to the chest …

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How to Provide Cancer Care When Resources are Scarce

SMALL_Larry Shulman at the entrance to Butaro Hospital in Rwanda.

Is it fair that one person with Hodgkin lymphoma will be cured and another will die, simply because of what part of the world they live in? No, says Lawrence Shulman, MD, Dana-Farber’s director of the Center for Global Cancer Medicine and senior oncology advisor to Partners In Health (PIH). Shulman, who recently published his perspective in Nature Reviews Cancer, works with Dana-Farber and its partners Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital to bring cancer care to PIH sites in developing countries. He shares his experience in providing cancer care in Rwanda. Q: What is the difference between …

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What’s New in Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment and Research

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Metastatic breast cancer (MBC), also known as stage IV breast cancer or advanced stage breast cancer, ultimately affects approximately 20-25 percent of all people with breast cancer. There is no cure for MBC, but new developments in treatment and research are helping patients live longer and experience a better quality of life. “There are women who live with MBC for many years, often five, ten years or more,” says Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Oncology Program in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. “Although some women with metastatic breast cancer still face a shorter …

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