New developments in brain tumor treatment: Five questions for David Reardon, MD

More than 600,000 people in the United States are living with a primary brain tumor — one that begins and stays in the brain — and over 60,000 adults and children will be diagnosed with a brain tumor this year. In recognition of May as Brain Tumor Awareness Month, we asked David Reardon, MD, clinical director of the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, for the latest advances in brain tumor research and patient care.

Watch and wait: When cancer treatment seems to mean doing nothing

Watch and wait. That’s often one of the new terms added to your vocabulary when you’re diagnosed with cancer. Or maybe it’s wait and watch. Or active monitoring. Whatever it’s called, sometimes it’s the term used when there’s nothing to do to treat your particular cancer but wait. That’s a hard thing to do, most doctors will tell you. The natural reaction to a cancer diagnosis is a desire to do something, anything. Melt it. Burn it. Radiate it. Drug it. Remove it. Attack it. Just get the cancer out of you.

How to help your kids cope with your cancer

For people with cancer, deciding how, and what, to tell others about the diagnosis can be a challenge. How do you tell your loved ones, or your employer, that you have cancer? For parents, there’s another degree of difficulty: What do you say to your children? How much will they understand, and what’s the best approach? Susan Englander, LICSW, a social worker at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who specializes in working with young adult patients — many of whom have children — offers these tips to parents with cancer on how to talk to their kids and help them through the …

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Pregnancy and breast cancer: One mother’s story

Rebecca Byrne had waited years for a doctor to tell her, “You’re pregnant.” She never imagined that just a few months after she first heard those words, she would hear four more: “You have breast cancer.” Byrne still tears up when telling the story, but smiles when her 20-month-old daughter, Emelia, leaps into her lap. Emelia is the happy outcome of a painful period of Byrne’s life, when the joys of pending and early motherhood were shadowed by chemotherapy treatments, hair loss, radiation, and uncertainty.

A life saved by second opinions, experimental treatments, and a touch of luck

By James Bond “How long will I live?” I asked my oncologist in Ohio in 1992, when I was 44 and diagnosed with multiple myeloma. “Three years,” he answered. Instead, I enjoyed 10 more years of active living. Then my disease began to overtake me; my kidneys were failing, I was unable to eat solid foods, and I had fevers of 105 degrees. Having already had three stem cell transplants, I seemed to be out of options. My wife Kathleen and I were advised to seek hospice care.

Brain tumor doesn’t slow this fitness enthusiast

Bryan Reilly has a full-time job and a passion for exercise. He skis, climbs mountains, works out regularly, and runs a mile in under 8 minutes. Any 56-year-old could be proud of being so fit. But for Reilly, it’s a special triumph: Less than two years ago he was diagnosed with an often-lethal and aggressive brain tumor.

‘Designed by patients like me’: A patient’s perspective on the Yawkey Center

As a Dana-Farber employee planning events for the opening of Dana-Farber’s Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, I knew the building was designed with guidance from patients and families. But I had no idea how important this was until shortly after the building opened – and, newly diagnosed with acute t-cell lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma, I walked through the doors as a patient myself.

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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