Should I Get a Colonoscopy?

by Richard Saltus Colonoscopy exams get a bad rap. Even though the exam is brief and painless, many people fear and avoid them. Roughly 40 percent of Americans for whom they are recommended are not getting colonoscopies. Yet colonoscopy is one of the most effective of all cancer prevention methods. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 142,820 diagnoses of colorectal cancer in 2013 and 50,830 people will die of the disease.  As many as 60 percent of colon cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone 50 years old or above underwent colonoscopies, according to the Centers for Disease …

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What Happens If You’re Allergic to Your Chemo Drugs?

By Tara Shuman Before Oct. 31, 2012, I would have probably guessed that desensitization was a process invented by mental health professionals to make really sensitive people less sensitive. I might have inquired about the cost to put my four-year-old son through “desensitization” so that he wouldn’t throw such a fit when he lost a game of knee hockey in our basement. Now I know that desensitization is a life-saving process necessary to treat cancer patients like me.

Zeroing In On Dark Matter

By Richard Saltus If the human genome – the complete set of  DNA blueprints in a cell for building a human being — is truly “the book of life, ”  as it has been called, then 99 percent of life’s book is gobbledygook. Only 1 percent of the DNA contains genetic instructions for making the body’s proteins; most of the rest of it has no known purpose, earning it the unappealing title of “junk DNA” or the more ominous sounding “dark matter.” In addition to containing all of life’s necessary genetic instructions, the 1 percent had also been home to …

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How to Eat Better and Fight Cancer with Your Fork

By MacKenzie Kimball Good nutrition is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle and, according to Dana-Farber Nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, it can also help in the battle against cancer. “Good nutrition is really important for supporting a healthy immune system, which helps the healing process, and healthy eating can even help to alleviate side effects or symptoms related to cancer and treatment, such as fatigue, constipation, nausea, and mouth sores,” Kennedy says.

Sequestration Could Slow the Pace of Biomedical Research

By Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD The automatic budget cuts (or sequestration) that went into to effect as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, could have a chilling long-term effect on scientific research in the United States. The automatic cuts will slash 5.1 percent – or about $1.6 billion in 2013 alone – from the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the principal funder of biomedical research in the United States, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is a major supporter of research at Dana-Farber.

Cancer Researcher Values Teaching and Learning

By William Hahn, MD, PhD Every year, hundreds of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students study cancer research at Dana-Farber under some of the world’s leading scientists. The Dana-Farber Postdoc and Graduate Student Affairs Office recently named the first recipient of its Mentor-of-the-Year Award: William Hahn, MD, PhD, the Institute’s deputy scientific officer and director of its Center for Cancer Genome Discovery. Here, Hahn discusses the lessons he learned from his own mentors and his efforts to instill the same principles in his own trainees.

When It Comes to Cancer, Everyone Can Help

By Jim Donovan In 2002 my good friend died of cancer. He and I were at MIT together as undergraduates, where we shared a lot of great memories and developed a long-lasting friendship. Like most of us who walk with a loved one through a life-threatening disease, I experienced feelings of anger, sadness, and fear. I don’t have a medical background, and honestly didn’t understand some of the terminology that doctors used during the diagnosis and the treatment. This made me feel helpless. But I wanted to help.  So I discovered other ways I could support my friend. First and …

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Seven Tips for Life After Stem Cell Transplant

By Maria Pearson As a technology teacher who had a long career with IBM before going into education, I have encountered all sorts of opportunities to teach – and to learn. The biggest such opportunity of my life occurred at the intersection of cancer, technology, and Dana-Farber. In August 2010, I was diagnosed with stage III multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. No search engine was adequate in comforting my fears of life expectancy, treatment, or facing a stark life-altering challenge.

Do BRCA Mutations Increase a Woman’s Lifetime Cancer Risk?

By Judy Garber, MD, MPH We know that women who inherit harmful mutations in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 have a sharply increased risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer at an early age (prior to menopause). In fact, women with inherited BRCA1 or 2 mutations are about five times more likely to develop breast cancer – and at least 10 times more likely to develop ovarian cancer – than women without such mutations, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Driving a Blood Mobile is Hard. Donating Blood is Easy

SMALL_Bloodmobile at Copley Square.

The next time you’re ready to curse the narrow, cobblestoned streets of Boston while driving, imagine being Andre Seale. Starting next month, he’ll be navigating them in a 42-foot-long vehicle with the most precious of all resources aboard: donated blood. Seale will be behind the wheel of the new Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham and Women’s Hospital Blood Mobile, which will expand the organizations’ ability to conduct blood drives throughout the greater Boston area. “Now we can have a blood drive anywhere that has a wide enough area for us to park in,” explains Seale. “I also won’t need to lug around …

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