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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Dating Advice from Young Adults with Cancer

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Navigating the dating world is difficult regardless of one’s age or circumstances. But dating or maintaining a relationship as a young adult living with cancer is particularly tricky. How should you tell a potential partner about your disease, and when? How do you maintain normalcy as a couple when you’re planning dates around treatment schedules, or treatment-related side effects? The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber recently hosted a Twitter chat for young adults with cancer to discuss these challenges. Here is some of their advice. Be open about your diagnosis in the beginning, it can help in the long run …

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FDA Approves New Therapy for Metastatic Breast Cancer

New drug approved for metastatic breast cancer

  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new treatment  for women with advanced (metastatic) breast cancer. The new therapy, palbociclib, will be used to treat postmenopausal women with metastatic estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer who have not received previous treatment. Palbociclib, which is marketed under the name Ibrance, will be used in combination with another breast cancer drug, letrozole. “This is a new class of drugs that has been effective in treating this particular pathway in cancer, and it has improved outcomes for patients with advanced ER-positive breast cancer, one of the most common forms of the …

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Collaborative Effort Helps Develop More Effective Treatment for Brain Tumors

The information used in diagnosing a brain tumor takes many forms. At Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), patients’ brain tumor tissue undergoes a broad range of diagnostic tests: not only standard pathology exams in which tumor cells are viewed under a microscope, but also next-generation scans for mutated genes and misassembled chromosomes, as well as whole-genome searches for surplus or missing copies of genes. Such extensive testing helps pinpoint the exact type and characteristics of a particular tumor. The more specific the diagnosis, the more precise the therapy can be. But such a wealth of test results is only …

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Important Terms Every Breast Cancer Patient Should Know

Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH

After a breast cancer diagnosis, it can sometimes be hard to wrap one’s mind around all of the terminology used by doctors and nurses. In fact, a recent study from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found a significant lack of knowledge among breast cancer patients about the basic characteristics of their disease, including how advanced it is (stage), the grade, and the subtype (e.g. whether it is hormone receptor-positive or HER2-positive). The study surveyed 500 women in the California Cancer Registry who had early-stage breast cancer. Between 56-58 percent of women knew the correct stage and receptor status of their tumor, and …

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The Latest in Cervical Cancer Treatment, Research and Prevention

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Although cervical cancer is relatively rare in the United States, approximately 11,000-12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease each year. Globally, that number grows to more than 500,000 diagnoses each year, making it the fourth most common women’s cancer worldwide. As January marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber hosted a live cervical cancer webchat with Ursula Matulonis, MD, medical director of the Gynecologic Oncology Program at the Susan F. Smith Center, medical oncologist Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, and radiation oncologist Larissa Lee, MD. The discussion included information about …

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Common Myths About the HPV Vaccine

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When it comes to vaccines, particularly the HPV vaccine, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that girls and boys aged 11 or 12 years be vaccinated against HPV, the human papillomavirus, which can be spread during sexual activity and can cause cervical cancer in women and cancers of the genital and throat regions in both sexes. The two available HPV vaccines – Cervarix and Gardasil – protect against most of the cancers caused by HPV infection (Gardasil is approved for males and females). Here are some common myths and …

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How Integrative Therapies Can Help Lung Cancer Patients

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Any cancer diagnosis and treatment can take a physical and emotional toll on patient. For many lung cancer patients, post-operative pain and muscle tension, as well as breathing and sleeping issues, are common side effects. To help ease some of these symptoms, patients can seek out integrative therapies, which can be used in conjunction with standard treatment. “Patients who participate in integrative therapies may experience fewer side effects of treatment and therefore, have a better quality of life,” says Bambi Mathay, MD, LMT, oncology massage therapist and reiki master practitioner at Dana-Farber’s Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies. Lung cancer …

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