While chemotherapy can kill cancer cells, certain chemotherapy drugs can also cause an uncomfortable and distressing condition that may produce numbness, tingling, and discomfort in the arms or legs. This condition, known as peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), can make it difficult for people to perform day-to-day activities. Although there is no sure prevention […]
By Stacey Carroll Watch Stacey Carroll describe how she got her strength back. In my mental dictionary, strength had to do with will power and physical ability, and I believed I was strong according to my definition. I’ve been in the US Army for 20 years, served as a Commander […]
A group of specialists at the National Cancer Institute recently issued a report calling for a redefinition of the word “cancer,” suggesting that it no longer be applied to certain premalignant and non-lethal conditions. Such a change, the panel wrote, may ease the fears of patients, making them less inclined to […]
by Richard Saltus Living with cancer is a physical and emotional challenge, but people may also find it hampers their thought processes and memory. Often the deficits are temporary, but sometimes they persist or appear months or years later as delayed effects. Cognitive difficulties, says Clare Humphreys, PhD, a neuropsychologist at […]
There are many decisions parents face after testing for genetic cancer risk, including whether to tell their children and how to approach the conversation. If you decide to talk to your children about the test results, allow yourself some time to process the information; you want to be calm and […]
By Ursula Matulonis, MD After a long period of slow progress, new knowledge about the genetics of ovarian cancer is leading to the development and testing of new therapies. Researchers at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers will soon be launching several phase 3 clinical trials testing drugs […]
When Angelina Jolie underwent a preventative double mastectomy earlier this year, this issue of cancer risk and genetics made front-page headlines. Jolie, who announced the operation in a New York Times op-ed, tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation and learned she had an 87 percent risk of developing breast […]
By Nancy Campbell, MS Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common complaints among cancer patients and survivors. This type of weariness, which typically occurs during treatment or in the first year after, is particularly difficult because it can last for long periods of time and doesn’t go away after […]
By Maura Perkins I can’t pinpoint when I started to get ovarian cancer symptoms. It was all very subtle and gradual. I was a healthy person. I ran, biked swam, hiked, and went to the gym regularly. A slight pain in my left side, difficulty digesting food, feeling of fullness, […]
By Melanie Graham Patients undergo different types of scanning procedures to produce detailed images of potential cancer growth. Depending on the cancer, physicians may use MRI, mammography, CT, PET/CT or other technologies. While some of these procedures use only x-rays or radio waves to create images, a PET/CT scan uses a […]
By Christine Cleary The 21st century has seen great strides in treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow once considered a death sentence. In fact, thanks to research by Dana-Farber scientists, this blood cancer that took the lives of Geraldine Ferraro and Leonard P. Zakim has become […]
by Eric Schuller When you think of a cancer patient, you might envision someone frail and thin. But while weight loss can be a side effect, gaining weight during cancer treatment is also quite common. That’s why it’s important to find a healthy balance during treatment. Here are some tips.
More than 70 years ago, two pharmacologists began looking at mustard gas as a possible treatment for lymphoma. The chemical, used during World War I, lowered blood counts and destroyed lymph nodes in soldiers who were exposed to the gas. Two decades after the war, a thoracic surgeon named Gustav […]
By Lori Buswell, RN I recently returned from a three-month rotation as a nurse fellow at a comprehensive cancer center at Butaro Hospital in Rwanda, a tiny African country known as the “land of a thousand hills.” The hospital, built and operated by the Ministry of Health and Partners In […]
Liz Moroney celebrated her 23rd birthday in an unusual place — at a fertility clinic. Liz, a recent college graduate, wanted to plan for having children before it was too late. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in June 2010, she spent 4 months in chemotherapy treatment in New York. Afterward, she […]
By Melanie Graham A diagnosis of ovarian cancer can raise a lot of questions. It can also raise many new medical terms, which your doctor or a member of your care team can explain. Here are a few terms to know.
By Eric Schuller Palliative care is often misunderstood. People may associate it with end-of-life care or “giving up” – especially when facing a serious health challenge like cancer. But palliative care may not be what you think, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it. Here’s a closer look […]
By Leonard Ansin In January 2012, my wife and I had left Boston to spend a few months in sunny Florida. We had just passed Orlando when my cell phone rang. It was my primary care physician calling to tell me she was concerned that my PSA was elevated to […]
Dana-Farber celebrates cancer survivorship in June with Living Proof, an annual series of events that includes workshops and programs as well as a keynote reception on June 20. The end of treatment is an important milestone for any cancer patient, but it can also be a time of anxiety. In […]
By Kelley Tuthill Hair loss can be a jarring side effect of chemotherapy. When I was treated for breast cancer, I was nervous about my appearance and decided to wear a wig. At first it was a strange experience, but wearing a wig helped me face the day — and […]
By Eric Schuller If you recently learned you have cancer, donating a sample of your cancer tissue to science is probably the last thing on your mind. But it’s a topic that you might discuss with someone on your health care team, because cancer researchers often rely on donated tissue […]
By Nancy Borstelmann, LICSW, MPH Having cancer can be isolating. Even if you’re surrounded by friends and loved ones, you may feel that no one understands what you’re going through. That’s why it can be helpful to join a support group attended by people who face a similar diagnosis, or […]
Editor’s Note: This is the second in our series of stories celebrating Moms this Mother’s Day weekend. Yesterday, Michelle Maloney shared her story. Today, it’s Allison Bellevue’s turn. By Christine Triantos In one whirlwind year, Allison Bellevue moved to Boston, started a new job, met her future husband, and discovered […]
Editor’s Note: This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day with two inspiring stories of Moms whose cancer diagnoses came while they were pregnant. Today, Michelle Maloney shares her story. By Naomi Funkhouser On a cold October evening, Michelle Maloney braced herself against the night chill. As she hugged herself in bed, […]
Millions of men each year have their blood tested for prostate specific antigen, or PSA, a normal protein whose levels may be elevated in men with prostate cancer or other benign diseases of the prostate. However, experts have disagreed on who should be tested, when and how frequently. Some are […]
by Richard Saltus One of the oldest healing practices in the world, acupuncture is beginning to have a role in alleviating pain and discomfort associated with cancer and its treatments. Acupuncturists use fine needles to penetrate the skin and stimulate – manually or electrically – specific points on the body. Stimulation […]
Just as Dana-Farber tailors treatment and support to children and young adults, the Older Adult Leukemia Program ̶ a specialized, clinical service ̶ addresses the other end of the spectrum: adults who are 65 and older, and have blood cancer such as leukemia or other bone marrow disorders.
If you have your first chemotherapy appointment coming up, you’re likely thinking about a hundred things. In this short video, a Dana-Farber breast cancer patient walks us through the chemotherapy infusion process. If you’re anxious about your first chemo appointment, the video is a good place to start. If you’re […]
By Eric Schuller Getting cancer can be particularly difficult for young adults – classified by the National Cancer Institute as ages 15 to 39. Because the disease is relatively rare in this age group, these younger patients may find themselves isolated – too old to fit easily into childhood cancer programs, and […]
By Nancy Borstelmann, LICSW, MPH A cancer diagnosis can put even the most organized person into a state of disarray. That’s not surprising, because it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and out of control in the face of such stress. But there are steps you can take to ensure you’re best […]
By Robert Levy In a recent study, Oxford University researchers reported that although radiation therapy is a critical tool for the treatment of women with breast cancer, it can also raise their risk of a heart attack or heart disease later in life. The study was based on a review […]
by Richard Saltus Colonoscopy exams get a bad rap. Even though the exam is brief and painless, many people fear and avoid them. Roughly 40 percent of Americans for whom they are recommended are not getting colonoscopies. Yet colonoscopy is one of the most effective of all cancer prevention methods. […]
By Tara Shuman Before Oct. 31, 2012, I would have probably guessed that desensitization was a process invented by mental health professionals to make really sensitive people less sensitive. I might have inquired about the cost to put my four-year-old son through “desensitization” so that he wouldn’t throw such a […]
By Maria Pearson As a technology teacher who had a long career with IBM before going into education, I have encountered all sorts of opportunities to teach – and to learn. The biggest such opportunity of my life occurred at the intersection of cancer, technology, and Dana-Farber. In August 2010, […]
By Judy Garber, MD, MPH We know that women who inherit harmful mutations in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 have a sharply increased risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer at an early age (prior to menopause). In fact, women with inherited BRCA1 or 2 mutations are about five times […]
Most people seek opinions from experts when it comes to important matters, such as finances, children’s education, or a major purchase. Why not do so when it comes to your cancer treatment?
By Melissa Cochran, MS, NP For my cancer patients, a stem cell transplant is a life-changing event. They cannot work outside the home for a full year; visits to Dana-Farber are about the only excursions allowed. No more trips to the grocery store or dinners at a favorite restaurant. In our clinic, […]
Pink may be the color for breast cancer advocacy, but that doesn’t mean men can’t be diagnosed with the disease. Each year, 2,000 men in the U.S. receive a breast cancer diagnosis. Current treatments are highly effective in men whose cancer is treated early. However, because men aren’t familiar with breast […]
by Michael Buller Whenever I’ve met people with cancer, I’ve been at a loss for what to say and which questions to ask. Now, as a cancer patient, I realize the irony.
Not long ago, doctors were often skeptical when cancer patients who had undergone chemotherapy complained that they were mentally foggy; unable to plan a week’s worth of meals or organize their finances as they could before. Patients called this side effect “chemobrain” and were frustrated by the lack of recognition […]
Bob Hurkett doesn’t know what became of the little girl he first heard of in 1998, but he thinks about her often. She was 5 years old and needed a bone marrow transplant. Hurkett and his wife, Jane, attended a donor drive hosted by the girl’s family where their blood […]
When Gov. Deval Patrick signed an oral chemotherapy parity bill into law on January 5, Massachusetts joined more than 20 states requiring health plans to cover oral cancer pills at a rate no less favorable than standard intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. The new law tells insurers that they cannot require higher […]
by Saul Weingart, MD, PhD Flu has arrived in the northeast with a vengeance. The City of Boston declared the flu epidemic a public health emergency. Perhaps someone you know has been sick with the flu. Influenza can be serious for anyone, but for a cancer patient, the stakes are […]
Faced with an abundance of cancer stories in the news and our own personal experiences with cancer, we may fear that there’s a growing “epidemic” of the disease. Not so. A new report says that overall, deaths from cancer are continuing to decline, as they have for nearly two decades.
by Nancy Campbell, MS “How soon can I start exercising after I start cancer treatment?” It’s a question I hear often from patients who visit me for a fitness consult or class at Dana-Farber. My answer? “As soon as possible.” While it may seem counterintuitive, exercise offers key benefits for […]
When Jane Davis was diagnosed with breast cancer last July, she began learning as much as she could about her disease. Davis quickly discovered one of the most startling statistics about breast cancer: Up to 40 percent of women who have a lumpectomy require a second surgery. That’s because surgeons often […]
When it comes to treating prostate cancer, proton radiotherapy (PRT) is no better than traditional intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), according to a new study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on Friday. PRT is an advanced but expensive treatment option for some prostate cancer patients. However, the […]
It’s hard to believe that the holidays are upon us – again. The stores are overflowing with holiday goods as families gear up for their celebrations. However, if someone you love has recently died, thinking about the holidays may bring you anguish. What were once happy times might now fill […]
by Laura Dominici, MD Mammograms are the most effective tool for screening women for breast cancer. But mammography isn’t perfect: it may be slightly less effective for women with dense breasts. About half of all women have fairly dense breasts, which contain relatively large amounts of fibrous and glandular tissue […]
What would happen if you were accidentally knocked unconscious and had to be taken to the emergency room? Would doctors know who to go to with questions about your care? A health care proxy form is a legal document that names a trusted person who can make medical decisions for […]
by Barbara Virchick On July 18, 2012, a Cancer Center of Excellence opened in Butaro, Rwanda, as a collaboration between Partners In Health and Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. I was fortunate to have been there during this exciting time, working as part of a three-month fellowship to help train […]
Laura Ma remembers the moment nursing chose her. Upon earning her bachelor’s degree in art and sociology at the University of California Santa Cruz, she received her emergency teaching credential because of critical teacher shortages in the state. Three years later, she “felt like she needed something more,” Ma says. […]
As we approach the Thanksgiving meal, Dana-Farber nutritionists offer some easy tips for enjoying the holiday without packing on pounds. The average Thanksgiving dinner contains at least 3,000 calories. When you add in snacks, appetizers, and drinks throughout the day, you may end up consuming approximately 4,500 calories (two to three […]
While other kinds of cancer may receive more public attention, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths. There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell carcinoma and non-small cell carcinoma, both of which mainly affect people over 45 years old. We spoke with Bruce E. Johnson, MD […]
On Thanksgiving Day every year, Marc Kutzer and his sister, Roberta Klein, have much to be thankful for. In 2001, Kutzer went to his primary care physician for a routine physical. What his doctor discovered led Kutzer, 52, to Dana-Farber — and to a procedure he credits for saving not […]
With Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana-Farber has performed thousands of stem cell/bone marrow transplants for adult and pediatric patients with blood cancers and other serious illnesses. What’s the difference between these two terms? As it turns out, the only real distinction is in the method of […]
“Stay positive, I know it helps.” “What steps would you suggest I take to support my dad through all of this?” “I am a new member of this group.” These conversations are occurring online, at any time of day, in a community most people would not want to join: A […]
By Erica L. Mayer, MD, MPH There has been remarkable recent progress in identifying effective treatments for patients with metastatic breast cancer – that is, cancer that has spread beyond the breast and underarm lymph nodes to other parts of the body.
By Lola Baltzell I have been a metastatic breast cancer patient at Dana-Farber for over four years now. “Metastatic” means the cancer has spread beyond the breast. I have an amazing team of providers, especially my oncologist Ann Partridge and nurse practitioner Anne Kelly.
Alyssa Ywuc was a 23-year-old nursing student when she was diagnosed with leukemia. After seeing first-hand the work of oncology nurses as a patient, she decided to specialize in oncology nursing. We talked with Alyssa about both sides of the cancer experience – her time as a patient and her future […]
Aromatase inhibitors (AIs), such as Arimidex, Aromasin, and Femara, have proven to be more effective than previous hormonal treatments for treating both early and advanced breast cancer in post-menopausal women whose tumors are dependent on estrogen. Compared with tamoxifen, these drugs are less likely to cause blood clots or raise […]
By Lola Baltzell People often ask me: How do you manage to live with metastatic breast cancer? One of the most important strategies for me has been building a support network. My diagnosis of breast cancer that had already spread to my bones came out of the blue. I had […]
In 2012, it is estimated that more than 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer will be found, and over 15,000 women will die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. Unfortunately, in many cases the cancer isn’t detected until it is advanced. It’s important to recognize the symptoms […]
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and in recognition of that, we asked ovarian cancer survivor Margaret Winchester to share her story. After being diagnosed with advanced (stage IIIC) ovarian cancer in 2008, I chose Dana-Farber for my care because I knew about the Institute’s cutting-edge approach to cancer care […]
When a friend is diagnosed with cancer, your first reaction may be, “How can I help?” However, answering that question may be difficult. Some friends may be public about their health, and about what they need, while others may be more private.
A pill bottle isn’t the only option for relieving stress and discomfort caused by cancer and its treatments. Sometimes you can eat your way to feeling better. Dana-Farber nutrition expert Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, suggests some common foods that can pep you up, calm you down, relieve nausea, and potentially fight […]
Just as people may wheeze and itch in the presence of cats or pollen, a minority of cancer patients become allergic to the very drugs that are fighting their disease.
Every Sunday, the Cutter family holds a Chemofeast. The door to their home is open to any and all who wish to attend. It’s a day full of food, beverages, and a lot of laughter, and 15-year-old Blake Cutter gets to choose the menu. Then on Monday, his mother, Lois, […]
Award-winning photographer Richard Conboy understands the value of enjoying the moment, both in his pictures and in his life. Conboy had Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a teenager, and 40 years later, he beat colon cancer with the help of the Dana-Farber.
Their last names are practically identical. They are both fathers, and their oldest sons, now 6’3, were born on the same day – just two hours apart. “Blood brothers” Craig Johnson and Henrik Janssen had much to celebrate recently.
When we are sick, the kindness of others carries us through. Visits from those we love provide comfort, a hand to hold. But for Cindy Hale, healing meant limiting contact with family and friends. Hale underwent an allogeneic stem cell transplant at Dana-Farber in 2002, leaving her immunocompromised – with […]
One of the easiest and most effective ways to help cancer patients is to give blood. There is a constant need for donations, but especially so in the summer when people are on vacation and unable to donate. One pint of blood can save up to two lives, and one […]
By Karen Lee Sobol I recently learned that the word “patient” shares a Latin root with the word “compassion.” Any one of us can become a patient, for a number of reasons. For me, hearing a diagnosis of Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia flipped a switch. I became a patient in a big way.
If you’re diagnosed with cancer, you’ll probably get used to people asking about your health. And whether you’re fielding the concerns of well-meaning friends and family or the professional interests of your care team, you’ll gradually learn what responses to give. But many cancer patients and survivors choose to keep […]
For anyone who’s been out of circulation for a while, re-entering the world of dating can be awkward. It’s extra-challenging for cancer survivors. “Concerns about when to disclose health status, and the feeling that they don’t know how to deal with these questions, make dating relationships more difficult for cancer […]
The dirt roads in northern Rwanda now lead to a cancer center where patients can receive care for a disease that was, until now, considered a death sentence there. The Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence, which was dedicated on July 18, has allowed Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center to extend a […]
As recently as a decade ago, a visit to the hospital sometimes meant entering meant entering a cold, synthetic setting. But the tide is changing. A growing body of research indicates that creating what’s commonly called a “healing environment” – with features such as calming music, garden areas, artwork, and […]
Ben O’Clair was a college senior studying for finals when he first felt the twinges of pain in his side. A day later, the 21-year-old was in a hospital learning he had cancer. He left school immediately, moved back to his mother’s house in Holliston, Mass., and began arduous chemotherapy […]
The call of the beach is hard to ignore on sunny summer days. Yet many teens and young adults do not follow protection tips when they hit the sand. They remain the most difficult age group to convince that ultraviolet (UV) rays, which come from the sun and indoor tanning […]
Genes don’t cause cancer, but genetic mutations can. Our cells have about 22,000 genes, which consist of DNA packed into chromosomes inside the cell nucleus. These genes control a wide range of functions, including cell growth and division. When the genes misbehave or mutate, cancer can develop.