When a Celebrity Has Breast Cancer

by Erica Mayer, MD, MPH  In 1974, when First Lady Betty Ford announced that she had undergone a mastectomy for breast cancer, it was a turning point in people’s willingness to talk about the disease. Prior to that, discussing cancer of any type, even with one’s family or friends, was often taboo. The First Lady’s openness about her cancer helped create a space in which women felt more comfortable talking about their experience – and about being screened for the disease.

Breast Cancer, Aromatase Inhibitors, and Bone Density

Aromatase inhibitors (AIs), such as Arimidex, Aromasin, and Femara, have proven to be more effective than previous hormonal treatments for treating both early and advanced breast cancer in post-menopausal women whose tumors are dependent on estrogen. Compared with tamoxifen, these drugs are less likely to cause blood clots or raise the risk of endometrial cancer. As a result, AIs are used both in patients with early breast cancer and in those with metastatic disease.

Fun with Pink

It was glitter and glue when patients, visitors, and Dana-Farber staff gathered on Oct. 4 to create art on an unusual canvas – bras. Hosted by Friends’ Place and Dana-Farber’s Creative Arts Program, the “Decorate a Brassiere” art therapy event allowed attendees to creatively honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

How to Build a Support Network

By Lola Baltzell People often ask me: How do you manage to live with metastatic breast cancer? One of the most important strategies for me has been building a support network. My diagnosis of breast cancer that had already spread to my bones came out of the blue. I had a normal mammogram 13 months earlier, and no known risk factors. So when I heard the news in August 2008, my first impulse was to reach out for support.

Making a party out of cancer

Every Sunday, the Cutter family holds a Chemofeast. The door to their home is open to any and all who wish to attend. It’s a day full of food, beverages, and a lot of laughter, and 15-year-old Blake Cutter gets to choose the menu. Then on Monday, his mother, Lois, drives him to chemotherapy at Dana-Farber.

How are genes involved in cancer?

Genes don’t cause cancer, but genetic mutations can. Our cells have about 22,000 genes, which consist of DNA packed into chromosomes inside the cell nucleus. These genes control a wide range of functions, including cell growth and division. When the genes misbehave or mutate, cancer can develop.

Teacher travels 600 miles for Dana-Farber care

In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship.  In 2008 I discovered that my breast cancer, in remission for several years, had spread to my bones. I had just turned 50 and made a list of things I wanted to try that year: ride a helicopter, taste sake, attend a political rally. Going back into cancer treatment was not on the list. My oncologist in Virginia suggested a consult with Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Oncology Center in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers. After meeting with him I began traveling to Dana-Farber every …

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Meningioma: A tumor on the edge of the brain

Musician Sheryl Crow announced on June 5 that she has a benign brain tumor known as a meningioma. Below, doctors from Dana-Farber’s Center for Neuro-Oncology describe this condition. The singer-songwriter, a breast cancer survivor, visited Dana-Farber in 2006. Meningiomas are tumors on the surface of the brain, spinal cord, and fluid spaces. They are the most common type of brain tumor, with approximately 55,000 new cases diagnosed annually in the United States.