Remembering My Father’s Journey with Multiple Myeloma

By Elise Renner There’s a 1-in-12 chance that this is the month yours or your loved one’s cancer is recognized—odds better than the survival rates for some of these diseases. Some months, like October, boast big names like breast cancer. Others, like September, are crowded with lesser-known branches of the disease. “Cancer apparel,” including ribbons and jewelry, is marketed with pretty colors, one for each type of cancer, and sold to raise money as well as awareness. For my dad, I would wear maroon. Multiple myeloma, maroon, March – whoever decided this must’ve been keen on alliteration. This month I …

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What Is Waldenström’s Macroglobulinemia?

Waldenström's Macroglobulinemia

Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia (Waldenström’s) is a slow-growing type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma marked by abnormal levels of an antibody called macroglobulin (IgM). Also known as lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma, Waldenström’s mostly forms in the bone marrow and can hinder the growth of normal blood cells, which can lead to anemia as well as a weakened immune system. Waldenström’s sometimes does not produce symptoms (asymptomatic), and is often found during a blood test. However, the increased amount of IgM produced by Waldenström’s cells can cause excess bleeding as well as problems with vision. Other symptoms can include enlarged liver, spleen, or lymph nodes, headache, fatigue, …

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What’s New in Skin Cancer Research?

SMALL_Gordon Freeman, in his lab for Paths of Progress, POP SS 2014

Although malignant melanoma has been attracting much of the media spotlight because of promising new immunotherapy drugs, advances are also being made in other types of skin cancer. Nonmelanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are very common, with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed annually. In fact, it’s estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer. While melanoma tumors begin in the skin’s pigment-containing cells, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell cancers develop in cells at the base of the outer layer of the skin. They rarely spread to other parts of …

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Helping Cancer Patients ‘Live Life to the Fullest’

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Cancer survivors of all ages sometimes face psychological, social, or physical side effects that are long-lasting or develop later in life. With the number of survivors reaching 12 million in the U.S. today, the need for survivorship care and education is growing. “Survivorship care is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Just like treating a cancer when a person comes in, we look at the person and the characteristics of the disease,” Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, director of Dana-Farber’s Adult Survivorship Program. “We need to tailor survivorship care as well, to help patients move forward and live life to the fullest.” Partridge …

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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

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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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