I Have Metastatic Breast Cancer: What’s My Prognosis?

Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH

By Rachel A. Freedman, MD, MPH Metastatic breast cancer generally means that the cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes under the arm. For approximately 10 percent of women with breast cancer, the disease has metastasized when they are first diagnosed, but metastatic disease can also occur when cancer returns after previous treatment. The prognosis is not the same for all metastatic breast cancer patients and can vary tremendously based upon multiple factors, including your breast cancer subtype (such as estrogen receptor [or ER] status and human epidermal growth factor receptor [or HER2] status), the degree of …

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One Teacher Aims to Climb His Own ‘Everest’ to Help Fight Cancer

During a year in which both his wife and mother battled cancer, Andrew Macrae often felt as if he were summiting a mountain. Now, to honor their journey and support Dana-Farber, Macrae is scaling the 29,029 feet needed to reach the peak of the world’s tallest mountain – Mount Everest – without nearing the Himalayas. Starting today, Macrae will hike to the top of Mount Washington in North Conway, New Hampshire, six times in six days, an endurance test totaling the height of Mount Everest. A Scottish-born fifth-grade teacher at the British International School of Boston, he hatched the idea …

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What Are the Most Common Cancers in Each Age Group? [Infographic]

cancer, infographic

As we age, the overall risk of cancer increases. However, the type of cancer for which we are at risk varies. For example, the likelihood of someone younger than 20 years old developing cancer is quite low; only 0.19 cases will be diagnosed per 1,000 children annually. If they do develop cancer, however, they are more likely to be diagnosed with cancers of the blood or brain and central nervous system. By contrast, approximately 16.5 cases will be diagnosed per 1,000 people age 50 and older, but the most prevalent cancers in that age group are breast, prostate, colon and lung. The …

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What Is AT/RT Cancer?

SMALL_Mark_Kieran_SOG_5446_14

An atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT) is a very rare and fast-growing tumor of the central nervous system. AT/RT is part of a larger group of malignant tumors called rhabdoid tumors, which are found outside the brain, in the kidneys, liver and other locations. AT/RT is most commonly found in the cerebellum and brain stem, which control most of the body’s basic functions. Since AT/RT grows very rapidly, symptoms can develop quickly over days or weeks. Increased head size often occurs in infants due to swelling inside the brain. Other common symptoms of AT/RT include headaches, especially upon waking in the …

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Five Things You Need to Know About Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Nuts may help prevent certain cancers.

While one of the most common cancers in both men and women, colorectal cancer remains a very preventable disease, says Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, clinical director of Dana-Farber’s Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology. “Most of these cancers develop over a period of years,” he says. “While not preventable in everyone, the earlier you detect the disease, the more curable it is.” Here are some tips from Meyerhardt on ways to reduce your risk. Live a healthy lifestyle. “There are various dietary factors that play a role in colorectal cancer,” explains Meyerhardt. “The one that’s the most consistently shown in studies is …

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What Questions Should You Ask When Cancer Treatment Ends?

The successful end of cancer treatment is a welcome milestone for any patient, but it’s also the beginning of an important new chapter. Here are some questions to ask your care team at the end of treatment to help you live well beyond cancer: Can I get a treatment summary and survivorship care plan? A treatment summary will usually include your cancer diagnosis and describe the medical care that you received. A survivorship care plan will describe follow-up screenings you might need, as well as preventive measures to help prevent future health problems. It may also offer tips for managing …

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You Are Not Alone: Supporting Siblings of Childhood Cancer Patients

When Phoebe Clark was 14-months old, she had little knowledge of what was happening to her brother, Harry. The 5-year-old had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was undergoing multiple surgeries and radiation therapy at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. But a few years later, when Phoebe was 5-years old, her brother suffered a brain bleed and was back in the hospital. Suddenly, the hospital and the Jimmy Fund Clinic were not only at the center of Harry’s world, they were a major part of Phoebe’s life, too. “You really started to see the impact of what …

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Do All BRCA Mutations Come with the Same Cancer Risk?

Gentic testing for breast and ovarian cancer patients.

Women born with mutations in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 have an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, but the degree of increase depends on a variety of factors. Not all mutations within these genes raise the risk equally. A study published earlier this year tracked breast and ovarian cancer occurrences over a 75-year period in 31,000 women who had inherited mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2. The researchers found that mutations at either end of the BRCA1 gene increased the risk of breast cancer more than the risk of ovarian cancer. A group of mutations that occur in the middle …

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Why I Ride: Dr. Christopher Sweeney

Team Shawmut PMC

Since 1980, more than 88,000 cyclists have taken to Massachusetts’ roads for the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) to raise funds for cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber. Among the riders are many patients, their family members, and their doctors. Christopher Sweeney, MBBS, medical oncologist in Dana-Farber’s Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology, is one of them. We recently spoke with Dr. Sweeney about what motivates him to ride. Why did you start riding the PMC? In addition to treating patients with genitourinary cancers, particularly prostate and testicular cancer, I do clinical and translational research, with a focus on trying to find …

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At 91 Years Old, Sandy Cunningham Keeps On Volunteering for Cancer Patients

Sandy Cunningham 150

Ingersoll “Sandy” Cunningham has the dignified, silver-haired appearance of a man you’d expect to find sipping iced tea at the country club. So what is this Harvard-educated great-grandfather doing pushing food carts through the hallways of Dana-Farber, handing out sandwiches to patients? “You’ve got to have some objective when you get up in the morning, a purpose and a place to be,” says Cunningham, 91, a retired investment advisor, and for the last 16 years, a weekly volunteer at Dana-Farber. “This is mine. I used to take care of people and their money; now I take care of people facing …

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