How to Discuss Difficult Medical Decisions with Your Family

By Bethany-Rose Daubman, MD As a palliative care physician, part of my job is to help foster communication among family members making difficult health care decisions. This often relates to end-of-life matters, a topic I’ve grown comfortable with. In the department of psychosocial oncology and palliative care at Dana-Farber, my colleagues and I describe health care proxies and power of attorneys, discuss the differences between allowing a loved one a natural death and “pulling the plug,” and use a family’s natural rhythms of communication to guide these conversations. You’d think my own family would have all of this figured out, but …

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Should I Take Vitamins and Supplements During Cancer Treatment?

Getting the nutrients your body needs isn’t always easy, especially when certain treatments, such as chemotherapy, may make food less desirable. Many people consider taking vitamins and supplements to ensure optimal health, but, according to Dana-Farber nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, it is important to think about the benefits of “food first.”

Feedback Friday: How to Support Cancer Patients

Cancer does not have to be a solo journey. Every diagnosis involves doctors, nurses, family members and friends. Sometimes, support from these people can give that extra push to get you through a chemo infusion, or another radiation treatment. We recently asked our Facebook followers about the best support they’ve received as a patient, or provided as a caregiver. Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories. Here is a sample of they had to say:

How to Prevent and Manage Lymphedema

Following radiation treatment or surgery to remove lymph nodes (lymphadenectomy), patients can develop lymphedema, a condition that involves abnormal swelling, usually in the arms or the legs, due to an accumulation of lymphatic fluids. This fluid buildup is caused by blockage or removal of lymph nodes or lymph vessels. Lymphedema is often associated with breast cancer patients, but can result from treatment of other cancers, such as melanoma, prostate, or advanced gynecological cancer. In addition to discomfort, lymphedema can also lead to infection, as the fluid buildup can increase bacteria growth. Pay attention to signs of infection, including pain, heat, …

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Five Things You Need to Know About Donating Bone Marrow

Thousands of people who face life-threatening blood diseases, such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma, require treatment with a stem cell transplantation (also referred to as a bone marrow transplantation). For many patients, the best treatment approach is an allogeneic transplant, in which healthy stem cells are collected from another person. The stem cell donor is selected based on how well his or her Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) markers match that of the patient. Although a person’s HLA type is inherited from his or her parents, the likelihood of finding an HLA match with a family member is only 25 …

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How Donated Blood and Platelets Help Cancer Patients

If you’ve ever donated blood or platelets, there’s a reasonable chance that your donation went to help a cancer patient. That’s because cancer and certain treatments can damage blood cells, which means some patients may need transfusions of one or more types of blood components: