The Power of Listening to Cancer Patients

By Melissa Cochran, MS, NP For my cancer patients, a stem cell transplant is a life-changing event. They cannot work outside the home for a full year; visits to Dana-Farber are about the only excursions allowed. No more trips to the grocery store or dinners at a favorite restaurant. In our clinic, we have a solid team in place – physicians, nurses, social workers, and nurse practitioners like myself – working together to support and anticipate each cancer patient’s needs along the way. As you can imagine, significant physical and emotional issues can arise for our patients.

Can Men Get Breast Cancer?

 Pink may be the color for breast cancer advocacy, but that doesn’t mean men can’t be diagnosed with the disease. Each year, 2,000 men in the U.S. receive a breast cancer diagnosis. Current treatments are highly effective in men whose cancer is treated early. However, because men aren’t familiar with breast cancer symptoms, diagnosis is often delayed.

What is a Benign Tumor? What is a Malignant Tumor?

A tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue that has formed a lump. It’s called benign if it grows slowly and is self-limiting; that is, if it doesn’t have the capacity to invade nearby tissues and spread beyond its original site. A malignant, or cancerous, tumor, on the other hand, is innately dangerous because its cells can divide uncontrollably and produce virtually immortal daughter cells. Malignant tumor cells can penetrate and destroy adjacent tissue, and can metastasize, or travel through the circulation to distant parts of the body and form new tumors.

Mental Fog, Chemotherapy Side Effect, Is Real and Often Treatable

Not long ago, doctors were often skeptical when cancer patients who had undergone chemotherapy complained that they were mentally foggy; unable to plan a week’s worth of meals or organize their finances as they could before. Patients called this side effect “chemobrain” and were frustrated by the lack of recognition – or suggested remedies – from their physicians.

Finding a Way to Help Cancer Patients – Again and Again

Bob Hurkett doesn’t know what became of the little girl he first heard of in 1998, but he thinks about her often. She was 5 years old and needed a bone marrow transplant. Hurkett and his wife, Jane, attended a donor drive hosted by the girl’s family where their blood was drawn and tested as a possible match. Neither was a match but Hurkett felt compelled to help. When he learned about the need for platelets – which are vitally important for cancer patients as a means of replacing their own depleted supplies, as well as for trauma victims and …

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Want to Fight Cancer with Your Fork? There’s an App for That

Nutrition plays a large role in our health. That’s especially true for cancer patients. Whether it is eating a diet rich in cancer-fighting nutrients or managing treatment side effects, healthy eating habits are an important part of cancer care. Dana-Farber’s free iPhone app provides recipes and nutrition information that’s helpful not only for cancer patients but for anyone who wants to follow a healthy diet. Ask the Nutritionist: Recipes for Fighting Cancer contains more than 100 easy-to-prepare recipes ranging from nutritious snacks to main dishes and desserts. You can access a list of ingredients, directions on how to prepare the …

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Better Coverage for Oral Chemo: Why It Matters

When Gov. Deval Patrick signed an oral chemotherapy parity bill into law on January 5, Massachusetts joined more than 20 states requiring health plans to cover oral cancer pills at a rate no less favorable than standard intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. The new law tells insurers that they cannot require higher patient costs for oral chemotherapy, and it helps ensure that all forms of chemotherapy are accessible and affordable to Massachusetts cancer patients.

Managing Cancer Risk: Miss America Contestant’s Decision Puts Genetics and Cancer Center Stage

Win or lose, Miss America contestant Allyn Rose made news with her decision to undergo a double mastectomy. According to the Associated Press, Rose, who lost her mother to breast cancer, inherited a rare genetic mutation which might put her at greater risk for developing cancer. Her decision to have the preventive surgery has sparked questions about genetics, cancer risk and strategies for preventing cancer. If you have a question about genetic factors that increase cancer risk, you can ask the Dana-Farber cancer genetics team.