A Life-Saving Bridal Shower

bridal shower blood drive

Before Alden Coldwell and her fiancé, Peter Dearborn, were married in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire at the end of June, the couple opted for a different kind of bridal shower. On June 14, family and friends of the bride and groom gathered at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center in Boston to give blood instead of material gifts. The blood collected was donated to help save the lives of patients at Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We’ve never done anything quite like this,” says Malissa Lichtenwalter, supervisor for donor recruitment at the Kraft Center. “But we are …

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What Older Women Should Know About Breast Cancer

Pat Kartiganer and Eric Winer

American women have a 12 percent lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, the second most common cancer in women. While young women do get breast cancer, the disease is much more common in women aged 60 and older. Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, explains what older women should know about breast cancer: Menopause can impact breast cancer risk. The risk of breast cancer increases with age, and the age at which a woman enters menopause can also impact her risk. A woman who enters menopause …

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Five Tips for Facing a Rare Cancer

rare cancer, becky sail

By Becky Sail At age 22, I was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma called aggressive angiomyxoma – say that 10 times fast. When my parents and I got the news we asked the doctor, “Is it cancer?” He responded, “That is a complicated question.” He said he had never seen it before and I needed to get to New York or Boston – there were only 250 reported cases in the world, ever. Fortunately, my job relocated me to Boston and I was able to choose Dana-Farber for my care, which I am so grateful for. I have always faced …

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Childhood Cancer and the Promise of Gene Therapy

gene therapy

At its most basic level, gene therapy is a powerful technique for correcting mistakes (called mutations) in DNA of human cells. Lately, the therapy has been gaining traction as a potentially life-saving treatment for children with an array of inherited rare blood and immune disorders, as well as certain cancers. Gene therapies are being carefully tested in clinical trials, using improved, safer DNA delivery methods to reduce the risk of complications: some patients in earlier trials developed leukemia when treated with previous “vectors” – engineered viruses that transfer copies of normally functioning genes into cells of ill patients.  So far, …

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Stem Cell Transplant Donor, Recipient Meet for First Time at Fenway Park

stem cell transplant, fenway

After trying chemotherapy to fight acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive blood cancer, Donnie Lewis, a 56-year-old husband and father of two from Canton, Mass., learned that his best chance to return to health would be through a stem cell transplant. Because Donnie didn’t have any siblings who were a match for this procedure, his care team had to search national registries for a lifesaving donor match. They found one person who was a perfect match: Daniel Alcantor, a 21-year-old Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Alcantor donated the stem cells that saved Lewis’s life. Lewis and Alcantor, …

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Can Coffee Affect Colon Cancer Risk or Survival?

colon cancer, coffee

Colon cancer patients who drink several cups of coffee daily may have a significantly lower risk of recurrence after treatment and an improved chance of cure. That’s the provocative finding of a large study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The research is the first to link colon cancer recurrence and coffee;  it comes on the heels of a number of reports in recent years suggesting coffee consumption may offer some protection against various types of cancer, including postmenopausal breast cancer, melanoma, liver cancer, advanced prostate cancer. However, the researchers, led by Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the …

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How to Stay Young and in Love as a Cancer Caregiver

Heather and Harry April 2011

By Heather Francis Some people worry when they get married that they won’t be able to handle the challenges of life as a couple. That won’t be a problem for my fiancé and me. Harry and I started dating in April 2011, when I was 24 and he was 25. Soon after, he started feeling fatigued, having night sweats, and getting nose bleeds. That October he found out he had Stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma. The doctors – prior to his coming to Dana-Farber – told Harry his cancer was easily treatable. He would have six months of chemotherapy, and the …

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How to Care for Your Skin After Cancer Treatment

skin care, cancer treatment

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may cause changes to your skin during and after cancer treatment. Follow these tips and check in with your doctor regularly to ensure your skin is in the healthiest condition possible throughout your cancer experience. Chemotherapy Dry skin is a common side effect of chemotherapy. If you experience dry skin, using mild soaps and lukewarm (not hot) water, cleansing lotions, and creams may help. You should also avoid hormone creams, such as hydrocortisone, which can be harmful to the skin. Moisturizers may also help combat dry skin. For the most effective results, apply moisturizer while your …

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Progress in the Treatment of Childhood Leukemia

Kimberly Stegmaier

Although treatments for childhood cancer patients are improving, cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease in children. Doctors and researchers are also focused on decreasing the toxicity of these treatments, which can have side effects years after a child finishes treatment. “The war against childhood cancer is hardly over,” says Kimberly Stegmaier, MD, a pediatric oncologist at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. “We need to do better.” Stegmaier, who focuses her research on identifying new drug targets and new drugs for leukemia, Ewing sarcoma, and neuroblastoma, recently discussed advances in childhood cancer treatment in a Science, Innovation, …

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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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