Men unite to cure women’s cancers

For most people, getting involved with a cause means thinking about what type of organization they’d like to support. But this is a story about what happens when a cause selects you – taps you on the shoulder and asks you to engage in battle. It began in 1998 when my wife Amy, then 40, was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer. Our two daughters were 5 years and 15 months old. Amy battled for 15 months, and died in 1999. Like many spouses of women who die of cancer too young, my next few years were all about balancing the …

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A focus on patient safety during radiation

March 4-10 is Patient Safety Awareness Week; at Dana-Farber, patient safety is at the top of our list 365 days a year. Here, we focus on one aspect of cancer treatment in which it’s especially important: radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is common – about two-thirds of all cancer patients can expect it to be included in their care. And while radiation therapy has been used for 100 years, it’s understandable that the prospect might make you anxious, particularly with regard to safety concerns. As with all aspects of cancer treatment at Dana-Farber, patient safety is at the core of radiation …

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Specialists recommend regular colonoscopies

If you’re over 50, have you been screened for colorectal cancer?  If not, the month of March would be a great time to talk about screening with your doctor. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in men and women in theUnited States. In 2012, an estimated 141,210 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 49,380 will die of the disease. But it’s also a very curable cancer when it’s caught early. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February that tracked patients as long as 20 years shows that colonoscopy screening …

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Five tips for cancer caregivers

If you’re supporting a friend or family member who is undergoing cancer treatment, you may not think of yourself as a “caregiver.” It’s a role that can be very rewarding, but also challenging and stressful. You may find yourself juggling an incredible range of duties above and beyond what you regularly do at home and at work. From driving your loved one to appointments, to discussing medical issues with health care professionals, to making dinner every night, you may find that you’re taking care of nearly everything – except yourself. But your loved one’s well-being depends on you, so it’s …

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Dana-Farber responds to national drug supply issues

Recent concerns about availability and authenticity of certain drugs have generated news headlines worldwide and raised anxiety levels for some cancer patients and their families. Sylvia Bartel, RPh, MHP, Dana-Farber’s vice president of Pharmacy, says that although the cause of the two problems is unrelated, it underscores the need for continuous and careful monitoring and management of the Institute’s medications.

How our patients help create a healing environment

Look closely at some of the steel beams that support Dana-Farber’s Yawkey Center for Cancer Care and you’ll see the names of patients spray-painted in bright colors by ironworkers during the building’s construction. These beams frame the building, but patients and families have lent far more than their names to the facility’s creation. Their guidance underpins almost every aspect of the Yawkey Center. From the healing garden to the layout of exam rooms to the parking garage, the imprint of our patients and families is felt across the Institute. Here, Janet Porter, PhD, chief operating officer, recalls in her own …

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When Doctors Encounter Diseases without Names

The complicated meaty machine that is the human body can break down in a remarkable variety of ways. The 9th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9) includes more than 16,000 afflictions – everything from the bite of a venomous tropical millipede to injury by falling spacecraft debris. With all of these dangers, it is truly a wonder that any of us can get out of bed in the morning. And yet any doctor who cares for patients knows that there are many other diseases that ICD-9 has never heard of – medical terra incognita, disorders that have yet to …

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How to tell your boss you have cancer

Part of dealing with a new cancer diagnosis involves deciding how to let those around you know what’s happening. While you’ll probably want your loved ones to know about your diagnosis and treatment, deciding whether to tell your employer can be a more challenging process. Here are some tips if you’re weighing the decision to share your cancer diagnosis at work.

What do you say when a friend has cancer?

A year ago today, I went to see my doctor about a lump that was growing scarily fast inside my mouth. Twelve days later, I was in a hospital bed with a cocktail of chemo drugs moving through an IV in my arm. Over the next few weeks, I adjusted to the fact that I had squamous cell carcinoma; that it was most likely curable; and that I had a long road of chemotherapy and radiation ahead. But one thing I couldn’t get used to was telling people I had cancer.

HPV linked to head and neck cancer

Traditionally, patients with oral cancers tended to be older individuals with a long history of smoking and heavy alcohol use. In the past decade, however, that picture has changed dramatically. Today, infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer in the U.S. and Western Europe. Oropharyngeal cancers affect the back of the throat (i.e. the tonsils and base of the tongue). HPV is the same virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer in women. Patients with HPV-related head and neck cancers are often relatively young, not heavy drinkers or smokers, and come from all …

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