Young Adult Patients Bond Over a Shared Diagnosis

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By Lisa Belanger and Carolyn Ridge  One of the most challenging aspects of having cancer is finding someone you can relate to. And who better to understand you than another cancer survivor? This is our story of cancer and friendship. Lisa’s Story: I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the ripe age of 29 on Sept. 12, 2011, upon waking up from surgery to remove what was thought to be a benign ovarian cyst. I was in my final semester of graduate school and nearly a year into the most serious long-term relationship of my life. I had plans to advance my …

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Facts About Throat Cancer

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Throat cancer is one of many cancers that affect the head and neck area, including the nasopharynx, the area of the throat behind the nose; the oropharynx, middle part of the throat; the hypopharynx, the bottom section of the throat; the oral cavity where the tongue sits; and the larynx, the area of the throat used for speaking . While cancers in this region can be painful and complex, the majority of patients, 65-80 percent, survive, according to Robert Haddad, MD. “Treatment requires a multidisciplinary approach, with a supportive care team including nutritionists, speech language pathologists, oral medicine experts, social …

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The ‘ATEs’: What Helps Me Get Through Treatment Days

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By Alex Niles Alex Niles was diagnosed with Stage IV gastric cancer in fall 2013, at age 30. He holds an undergraduate degree from Drexel University, where he was a Division 1 scholarship athlete, and a graduate degree from Fordham University. He writes about his cancer experience on his blog, Smiles for Niles and his work has been featured in the NY Times and Huffington Post. He lives and thrives in New York City. As I get closer to treatment day, I’m filled with a mixed bag of emotions; I’m excited to go into battle and beat this illness down, …

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Ask the Expert: Q&A on Breast Cancer, Exercise and Diet

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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jennifer Ligibel, MD, recently partnered with CancerConnect to answer questions about breast cancer, exercise and diet. Ligibel is an oncologist with the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Q: I am currently on maintenance treatment for breast cancer and I need to lose weight. Do you have any tips for how I can start? A: People are most successful when they start with an attainable goal. Studies have shown that smaller amount of weight loss, 5-10 percent of your starting body weight, can have many benefits, even if people can’t lose 50 pounds. Keep …

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50 Years of Discovery: Advances in Colorectal Cancer Treatment

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The fight against cancers of the digestive system – including colorectal, stomach, esophageal, hepatic, and pancreatic cancers – has made significant progress in the past 50 years, especially in prevention and early diagnosis of colorectal cancer, where screening with tests such as colonoscopies is continuing to make a major impact. “In some areas we have done better than others,” notes Robert J. Mayer, MD, former director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology at Dana-Farber. Mayer, a past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), led a recently published review commissioned by ASCO. Today, about two out of three colorectal …

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Five Things You Need to Know About Men’s Health/Cancer Screenings

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Cancer affects thousands of men across the United States every year, with the most common diagnoses coming in the form of prostate, colon, testicular, lung, and skin cancer. Not all cancers can be detected early on, but for some forms of the disease, the spread of cancer can be prevented through screenings. As June marks Men’s Health/Cancer Awareness Month, here are five things you need to know about men’s health screenings:   1. Prostate Cancer One in every six men is affected by prostate cancer, which most often affects men over age 50. In addition, age, family history, diet and lifestyle, …

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What is a Meningioma?

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A meningioma is a type of tumor that develops from the meninges, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas (90 percent) are categorized as benign tumors, with the remaining 10 percent being atypical or malignant. In many cases, benign meningiomas grow slowly. This means that depending upon where it is located, a meningioma may reach a relatively large size before it causes symptoms. Meningiomas account for about 27 percent of primary brain tumors, making them the most common tumor of that type. With May marking Brain Tumor Awareness Month, we’re looking at some common questions about …

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Helping Patients with a Few Good Laughs

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As patients come through for their MRIs and CT scans, MJ Murphy, RN, BS, has roughly 15 minutes to sit and talk, discuss treatment, and hear updates on friends and family. It’s not much time, but Murphy always tries to coax a smile. “I love referring to the friends and family in the waiting room as the patient’s ‘fan club,” Murphy says. “It’s a small thing, but it makes them laugh.” Murphy, who is a nurse in Dana-Farber’s Department of Imaging, knows the importance humor during a time of high stress and anxiety. In 2004, she was diagnosed with melanoma. …

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Cancer Between the Lines

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Young adults often have their sights set on the future, anticipating college, working at their dream job, or traveling. One place they don’t plan to be is in an infusion chair undergoing cancer treatment. Cancer disrupts everyone, but especially adults age 18-34 who are growing into adulthood and starting careers and families. The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber works to help combat these unique challenges by providing emotional support from professionals, and by creating a special community. This resource also helps patients interact with their peers for support. One challenge young adults face is communicating what they are going through …

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Is Chemo Working If I Don’t Lose My Hair?

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It’s well known that many chemotherapy medications used to treat cancer can bring undesirable side effects, such as hair loss, lack of appetite, and fatigue. But experiencing such symptoms is not an indication of whether cancer treatment is working. Chemotherapy interferes with a cell’s ability to grow and divide, so it tends to kill rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. However, some normal cells in our body also divide rapidly, such as hair cells and cells that create the stomach lining. Whether or not you will have side effects during cancer treatment depends on a variety of factors, including …

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