How to Manage Stress and Anxiety During Cancer Treatment

managing stress when you have cancer

Cancer comes with significant stress and anxiety for patients and their loved ones, which can make managing treatment even more difficult. Recently, Karen Fasciano, PsyD, clinical psychiatrist at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, joined four patients to discuss their experiences. “Often when we tell ourselves we can’t feel anxious, the anxiety gets bigger,” said Fasciano, who provides individual counseling to patients through her role as director of Dana-Farber’s Young Adult Program. “It’s important to recognize when you’re feeling anxious and where it’s coming from.” Kat Caverly (@KatCaverly), Noel Dawes (@NoelDawes), Chris Gazarian (@ChrisGaz), and Carolyn Ridge (@cr1682) joined Fasciano for …

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What to Eat When You Have Gastrointestinal Cancer

Maintaining a healthy diet is important during all stages of cancer treatment. But, for some gastrointestinal (GI) cancer patients, keeping up with a nutritious and well-rounded diet can be especially difficult. During treatment, patients with GI cancer may struggle with digestive problems, like constipation and diarrhea, along with the common side effects of treatment, like nausea and vomiting. Emily Biever, MS, RD, LDN, a nutritionist with Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, recommends staying hydrated to help keep these symptoms in check. “GI patients often come in needing IV hydration, but this can be reduced by keeping up with fluids and …

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Five Common Myths About Clinical Trials

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Better cancer treatments depend on clinical trials of new drugs and other therapies, but in the United States, only 3 percent of cancer patients participate in these investigations of new therapies. Patients often hesitate to participate because they don’t understand the process or have misconceptions about what it means for them. “There’s a national lack of understanding of why we do clinical research and where it takes us,” says Michele Russell-Einhorn, JD, Senior Director of the Office for Human Research Studies at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. “We could all do a better job of educating people about clinical …

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Can Shorter Courses of Radiation Be Safe and Effective?

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  Radiation therapy, which uses radiation to kill cancer cells, is a common treatment option for breast cancer patients. After a lumpectomy, a standard course of radiation therapy with breast cancer lasts six weeks. A new option for some breast cancer patients uses slightly higher doses of radiation over a shorter period of time. Both the standard and shorter regimens require daily treatments, Monday through Friday for 15 to 20 minutes; however the shorter course (or “hypofractionated” course) lasts only three and a half weeks. This allows patients to spend more time at home, with their families, or at work. …

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Finding the Right Words at the Right Time

SMALL_Staff Portrait Justin Sanders October 2014

This is an excerpt from a perspective published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Feb. 12, 2015. By Justin Sanders, MD, MSc When Ms. C. died, I was sad but not surprised. I had met her 4 years earlier, when I was an intern and she was the first patient who identified me as “my doctor.” She did so enthusiastically, asking the inpatient medical teams who frequently cared for her to run every decision by me. As a trainee, and given her complex needs, I found those requests both absurd and overwhelming. By 65 years of age, Ms. …

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Helping Cancer Survivors Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Eric Zhou, PhD- SMALL

Sarah Boczanowski was tired. Her turbulent relationship with sleep, dating back to her childhood, had only worsened since her leukemia diagnosis at age 18. Through biopsies and chemotherapy, she found sleep elusive. “With nurses and doctors coming in and out, and beeping noises from my IVs, it was impossible to sleep,” she says. Boczanowski is not alone. For many cancer patients and survivors, chronic insomnia is a common side effect of living with cancer – possibly triggered by several factors, including the cancer diagnosis, side effects of treatment, fear of recurrence, hospitalization, or chronic pain. Research shows that more than …

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Five Things You Need to Know About Oral Chemotherapy

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As cancer treatments advance, more patients are taking anti-cancer medications, including oral chemotherapy, at home. Unlike the traditional IV infusion chemotherapy given in a clinic, oral chemotherapy is a drug taken in tablet, capsule, or liquid form. It has the same benefits and risks as chemotherapy given by infusion. Oral chemotherapy may be easier than taking a trip to the clinic, but the pills are just as strong as intravenous forms of chemotherapy. Here is some key information to know about oral chemotherapy: 1.    Understanding your drugs is important Before beginning oral chemotherapy, talk with your doctor or nurse to learn …

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Whirlwind Week Ends in Reassurance for Breast Cancer Patient

Breast cancer treatment

It was a Monday when Katie Lazdowski got the news no 33-year-old mother expects to hear: “You have breast cancer.” Waiting is never easy, but waiting to find out what’s next after a cancer diagnosis can be excruciating. After meeting with a local oncologist in Amherst, Mass., about two hours west of Boston, on Wednesday, Katie called Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. The next day she met with her treatment team, and had both a plan of attack and a sense of reassurance. “Once I met my team, I knew Dana-Farber was where I wanted to be,” says Katie, who …

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If a Lump in the Testicle Is Painful, Is it Cancer?

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Men who notice a lump, heaviness, or pain in the testicle are often not convinced to see a doctor until a partner insists, but men should take note of changes in the testicles, says Clair Beard, MD, director of the Testicular Cancer Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “Unlike with breast cancer, where many women feel lumps that turn out not to be cancer, most men don’t feel a lump, they just notice the testicle is different somehow,” says Beard, who adds that men who do find lumps may notice that they stick out or feel like a marble …

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Forty Years After Introduction, Breast Cancer Prevention Drug Still Effective

Erica Mayer, MD

Nearly 40 years after its introduction, tamoxifen continues to prove its value as a breast cancer prevention drug. The most recent evidence comes from the International Breast Cancer Prevention Study 1 (IBIS-1), which for 20 years has been tracking breast cancer occurrence and survival rates in more than 7,000 women who had a higher than average risk of developing breast cancer at the time of enrolling in the study. Half the participants were randomly assigned to take tamoxifen for five years, while the other half took a placebo, or inactive pill, for the same period. (Participants didn’t know which pill they’d …

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