Mattel announces hairless version of Barbie doll

Mattel Inc., maker of Barbie dolls, last week announced that it would create a bald version of the popular fashion doll to support people battling cancer. The announcement came a few months after Beautiful and Bald Barbie, a Facebook group that petitioned Mattel to make a hairless version of the doll, gained mass support online. Their mission was simple: We would like to see a Beautiful and Bald Barbie made to help young girls who suffer from hair loss due to cancer treatments, alopecia or trichotillomania. Also, for young girls who are having trouble coping with their mother’s hair loss …

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Counting cells at lightning speed

At many supermarkets, you can dump a pocketful of change into a machine that rapidly counts your coins, sorting them into pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters and computing the total amount. Imagine something similar in a research lab. In the past, cells had to be manually studied and counted under a microscope. But the development of flow cytometry technology, beginning in the 1960s and continually improving, has brought automation to counting and sorting human cells that’s reminiscent of the coin machine. Flow cytometry today is routinely used in medical diagnosis of certain cancers, like lymphomas and leukemias, and as a …

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Alcohol and breast cancer: What’s the risk?

For many women who enjoy a glass of wine, research showing that relatively small amounts of alcohol can raise their risk of breast cancer are disconcerting, to say the least. And confusing, too. How much drinking is OK? Isn’t a glass of red wine a day good for your heart — and couldn’t that be more important? In the past five or 10 years, knowledge about alcohol and breast cancer has been changing as studies produce new results and are publicized, sometimes over-dramatically, in the media. At the same time, there’s growing evidence that moderate drinking can be healthy for …

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Five tips for cancer caregivers

If you’re supporting a friend or family member who is undergoing cancer treatment, you may not think of yourself as a “caregiver.” It’s a role that can be very rewarding, but also challenging and stressful. You may find yourself juggling an incredible range of duties above and beyond what you regularly do at home and at work. From driving your loved one to appointments, to discussing medical issues with health care professionals, to making dinner every night, you may find that you’re taking care of nearly everything – except yourself. But your loved one’s well-being depends on you, so it’s …

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Tips to protect your skin in winter

Sunscreen shouldn’t be packed away just because it’s winter. Your skin can be exposed to harmful rays all year long. So before you hit the slopes, build a snowman, or head off to a tropical beach, take time to protect yourself, say skin cancer specialists at Dana-Farber. According to the American Cancer Society, snow, ice, and water can all reflect the ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburn, which in turn increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Some experts say winter sports enthusiasts face just as much risk of getting sunburn as summer sunbathers.

How our patients help create a healing environment

Look closely at some of the steel beams that support Dana-Farber’s Yawkey Center for Cancer Care and you’ll see the names of patients spray-painted in bright colors by ironworkers during the building’s construction. These beams frame the building, but patients and families have lent far more than their names to the facility’s creation. Their guidance underpins almost every aspect of the Yawkey Center. From the healing garden to the layout of exam rooms to the parking garage, the imprint of our patients and families is felt across the Institute. Here, Janet Porter, PhD, chief operating officer, recalls in her own …

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Making a date to help others

Two husband and wife teams set a date every two weeks to do something special together. Not dinner and a movie, or a romantic night on the town: Barbara and Arthur Miller and Geri and John Ryan come in to Dana-Farber’s Kraft Family Blood Donor Center every two weeks to donate life-saving platelets. Platelets are the clotting agents of the blood and are critical for helping cancer patients return to health. Here’s their story.  

Bringing cancer care to Rwanda

By Lawrence Shulman, MD Dana-Farber, with our partners Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, offers patients highly advanced treatments in modern facilities. Our patients also benefit from an excellent staff, clinical research, and extensive resources, and many of them survive cancer to live long and healthy lives. Is it fair, then, that cancer remains a death sentence elsewhere in the world? In Rwanda, for example, a country of 10 million people, cancer care has been completely unavailable to almost all patients. They die of cancers that could have been cured in Boston.

Why you and your cancer care team are like the Patriots (or Giants)

The Super Bowl this weekend is the result of a lot of training and planning (and luck) on the part of the two competing teams. Players have to know their roles and everyone needs to work to the same game plan — and be ready to change tactics in an instant. In the same way, the specialists overseeing your cancer treatment and long-term care have their own areas of expertise, and you’re an important player on the team. Here’s why: Know your team Medical oncologists call the plays, determining the best options for treatment and guiding the care team. They …

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When Doctors Encounter Diseases without Names

The complicated meaty machine that is the human body can break down in a remarkable variety of ways. The 9th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9) includes more than 16,000 afflictions – everything from the bite of a venomous tropical millipede to injury by falling spacecraft debris. With all of these dangers, it is truly a wonder that any of us can get out of bed in the morning. And yet any doctor who cares for patients knows that there are many other diseases that ICD-9 has never heard of – medical terra incognita, disorders that have yet to …

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