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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How to tell your boss you have cancer

Part of dealing with a new cancer diagnosis involves deciding how to let those around you know what’s happening. While you’ll probably want your loved ones to know about your diagnosis and treatment, deciding whether to tell your employer can be a more challenging process. Here are some tips if you’re weighing the decision to share your cancer diagnosis at work.

Will a bald Barbie help kids cope with cancer?

The side effects of chemotherapy can create anxiety and uncertainty for any patient, but for young children, it can be overwhelming. A group of parents – that now counts thousands of supporters – is hoping that their call for a new bald Barbie will help. Cori Liptak, PhD, a psychologist in the Pediatric Psychosocial Oncology Program at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center, is part of a team that helps young patients manage pain and anxiety through play and behavioral therapy. She shared her thoughts on the subject during a recent interview with NBC. Tell us what you think. Would a bald Barbie help …

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Obesity and cancer: What’s the link?

There are a lot of good reasons not to gain too much weight, but you might not be aware of this one: Growing evidence links obesity to a higher risk of developing cancer, and being overweight may worsen a cancer patient’s outlook. Although more and more studies are finding this connection, scientists haven’t uncovered the biological mechanisms by which excess pounds make normal cells more likely to turn cancerous. But they are pursuing a large number of leads, some of which may uncover new ways of fighting cancer – including losing weight.

Adult stem cells may hold key to better health

Sarah Knauss, famous for being among the oldest people in the world until her death at the age of 119, might have had more than just “good genes.” Dana-Farber’s Wayne Marasco, MD, PhD, says that adult stem cells – known for their healing and regenerative properties – might hold the key to a long and healthy life. Marasco shared his expertise on the subject at the recent International Vatican Conference on Adult Stem Cells in Vatican City, Italy, an event attended by a select group of cardinals, clergy, and leading researchers and physicians from around the world. “We have learned …

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What do you say when a friend has cancer?

A year ago today, I went to see my doctor about a lump that was growing scarily fast inside my mouth. Twelve days later, I was in a hospital bed with a cocktail of chemo drugs moving through an IV in my arm. Over the next few weeks, I adjusted to the fact that I had squamous cell carcinoma; that it was most likely curable; and that I had a long road of chemotherapy and radiation ahead. But one thing I couldn’t get used to was telling people I had cancer.

Do viruses cause cancer?

In 1958, when scientists linked an aggressive form of leukemia to infection with a particular virus, some researchers took the discovery as evidence that nearly all cancers are caused by viruses. A cover story in Life magazine in 1962 proclaimed, “Cancer may be infectious.” Today, it is estimated that viruses are responsible for almost 20 percent of cancer cases worldwide. Seven viruses have been connected to specific types of malignancies; it’s now known, for example, that the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer and some types of head and neck cancer. While viruses can cause cancer in a variety of …

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The War on Cancer, 40 years later

Friday, December 23, marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of a national “War on Cancer.” On that date in 1971, Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, which allocated $1.5 billion over three years for cancer research and control. He declared, “I hope that in the years ahead we may look back on this day and this action as being the most significant action taken during this Administration.” Forty years later, the War on Cancer can claim countless successes against one of the most resilient and recalcitrant enemies mankind has faced. Some cancers that were once almost invariably …

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Author Siddhartha Mukherjee: “Cancer is a part of us”

Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, was a postdoctoral fellow at Dana-Farber in 2003 when one of his patients asked him, “What is it, exactly, that I am battling?” Mukherjee took this simple, yet profound, question seriously. The answer formed the basis for his 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Mukherjee’s spellbinding story spans 4,000 years, beginning with Egyptian hieroglyphs that reference a woman with a disease we now know to be breast cancer. Several Dana-Farber physicians, scientists, and patients are featured in the book, most notably the Institute’s founder, Sidney Farber, MD. Now an …

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