How to Manage Health Insurance When You Have Cancer

Clipboard, paper and pen. Stock shot.

Learning you have cancer means you’ll want to work with a medical team that can help you create the best possible treatment plan. But it also means you need to understand your health insurance coverage. Like any complex health condition, treating cancer can involve many different types of care, and you’ll want to be sure your providers and treatments will be covered. Start by calling your insurance company. The level of coverage for exams and other medical procedures will vary depending on your specific health plan. Dial the customer service number on the back of your health insurance card and …

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If a Lump in the Testicle Is Painful, Is it Cancer?

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Men who notice a lump, heaviness, or pain in the testicle are often not convinced to see a doctor until a partner insists, but men should take note of changes in the testicles, says Clair Beard, MD, director of the Testicular Cancer Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “Unlike with breast cancer, where many women feel lumps that turn out not to be cancer, most men don’t feel a lump, they just notice the testicle is different somehow,” says Beard, who adds that men who do find lumps may notice that they stick out or feel like a marble …

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Five Things You Should Know About Precision Medicine

precision medicine

When President Barack Obama rolled out his Precision Medicine Initiative, it included an increased funding request of $215 million in the 2016 federal budget. Precision medicine is changing the way cancer is studied and treated. Here are five important things to know about it. 1. Precision medicine can improve diagnosis and treatment  Physicians have long recognized that the same disease can behave differently from one patient to another, and that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Precision cancer medicine makes diagnosis of cancer and other diseases more accurate, and evaluates the specific genetic makeup of patients (and, in cancer, of their …

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New Treatment Option for Patients with Rare Blood Cancer

Steven Treon, MD, PhD

It’s commonly thought that targeted therapy for cancer requires the development of separate drugs for each type and subtype of cancer. The recent approval of the drug ibrutinib (Imbruvica®), however, for Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia (a rare form of lymphoma) shows the opposite to be true: a single agent can be effective against multiple types of cancers, providing they spring from the same molecular mechanism. Last month, Waldenström’s became the fourth cancer for which ibrutinib has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2013 and 2014 the drug was successively approved for patients with mantle cell lymphoma who have …

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Forty Years After Introduction, Breast Cancer Prevention Drug Still Effective

Erica Mayer, MD

Nearly 40 years after its introduction, tamoxifen continues to prove its value as a breast cancer prevention drug. The most recent evidence comes from the International Breast Cancer Prevention Study 1 (IBIS-1), which for 20 years has been tracking breast cancer occurrence and survival rates in more than 7,000 women who had a higher than average risk of developing breast cancer at the time of enrolling in the study. Half the participants were randomly assigned to take tamoxifen for five years, while the other half took a placebo, or inactive pill, for the same period. (Participants didn’t know which pill they’d …

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Young Patients Create Global Artwork

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Although childhood cancer is relatively rare in the United States, around 200,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer worldwide each year. Of those cases, approximately 80 percent occur in low- and middle-income countries, which average a 20 percent survival rate. The remaining 20 percent of diagnoses are in high-income countries, which average an 80 percent survival rate. In anticipation of International Childhood Cancer Day on February 15, patients at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center recently participated in craft activities that represented some of the 21 countries where the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) works to improve outcomes for children with …

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Dating Advice from Young Adults with Cancer

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Navigating the dating world is difficult regardless of one’s age or circumstances. But dating or maintaining a relationship as a young adult living with cancer is particularly tricky. How should you tell a potential partner about your disease, and when? How do you maintain normalcy as a couple when you’re planning dates around treatment schedules, or treatment-related side effects? The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber recently hosted a Twitter chat for young adults with cancer to discuss these challenges. Here is some of their advice. Be open about your diagnosis in the beginning, it can help in the long run …

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Five Ways to Reduce Skin Cancer Risk this Winter

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Whether you’re escaping the chill with a tropical vacation or skiing the slopes, sun safety is still important in the winter months. Because UV rays can be harmful even in frosty temperatures, protecting your skin is a year-round responsibility. Allison Goddard, MD, of Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center for Skin (Cutaneous) Oncology, shares some wintertime sun safety tips to protect your skin and lower your risk for developing skin cancer: 1. Look for sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply to all exposed areas of skin, including neck, ears, and hands, and reapply every hour and a half that you …

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Discovering New Ways to Approach the Treatment of Rare Brain Tumors

brain tumor research

Until a few years ago, there were only a handful of known survivors of atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT), a rare cancer that affects the brain and central nervous system. When researchers at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center studied how these few survivors were treated, they found three had been given an unusual chemotherapy regimen. They decided to try that therapy with several new and relapsed patients. “We had two kids with newly diagnosed AT/RT and two that had relapsed, and three of them did very well,” says Mark Kieran, MD, PhD, director of Medical Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Boston …

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FDA Approves New Therapy for Metastatic Breast Cancer

New drug approved for metastatic breast cancer

  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new treatment  for women with advanced (metastatic) breast cancer. The new therapy, palbociclib, will be used to treat postmenopausal women with metastatic estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer who have not received previous treatment. Palbociclib, which is marketed under the name Ibrance, will be used in combination with another breast cancer drug, letrozole. “This is a new class of drugs that has been effective in treating this particular pathway in cancer, and it has improved outcomes for patients with advanced ER-positive breast cancer, one of the most common forms of the …

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