Post-Traumatic Stress and Cancer

Many associate post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, with veterans returning home from war, or those involved in similarly violent scenarios. But PTSD can occur after any life-threatening traumatic event – including a serious illness like cancer. “It’s common for cancer patients, even if they don’t have full-blown PTSD, to have some of the symptoms of it,” says Fremonta Meyer, MD, of Dana-Farber’s department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, who notes PTSD rates among cancer survivors are slightly higher than the general population. Symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the traumatic event, usually in the form of flashbacks or nightmares; avoidance; …

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Five Tips for Managing Stress During Cancer Treatment

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Everyone faces stress from time to time, but a cancer diagnosis can be particularly challenging for both the patient and the family members. “For many of our patients and survivors, they experience a great deal of stress related to their diagnosis, treatment, or fears of recurrence,” says Eric Zhou, PhD, clinical psychology fellow at Dana-Farber’s Perini Family Survivors’ Center. “But they also have general life stresses on top of that, like family, finances, and work, that don’t go away just because they’re battling cancer.” Zhou, who leads Dana-Farber’s Survivor Stress Management and Relaxation Training (SMART) workshops, provides some tips on …

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How Exercise Can Help Neuropathy

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For many patients treated with chemotherapy, peripheral neuropathy can be an uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effect. The condition, which includes tingling or loss of sensation in the arms or legs, can increase risk for falls and fall-related injuries. To help prevent and ease these problems, Dana-Farber exercise physiologist Nancy Campbell, MS, recommends patients use low-impact exercise routines like finger taps, calf stretches, and ankle rolls. These exercises help increase blood flow to the peripheral nerves, restoring feeling in the extremities. The routines also build strength and improve balance, which can lead to fewer falls. View Campbell’s presentation below for …

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The ‘ATEs’: What Helps Me Get Through Treatment Days

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By Alex Niles Alex Niles was diagnosed with Stage IV gastric cancer in fall 2013, at age 30. He holds an undergraduate degree from Drexel University, where he was a Division 1 scholarship athlete, and a graduate degree from Fordham University. He writes about his cancer experience on his blog, Smiles for Niles and his work has been featured in the NY Times and Huffington Post. He lives and thrives in New York City. As I get closer to treatment day, I’m filled with a mixed bag of emotions; I’m excited to go into battle and beat this illness down, …

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ASCO: New Advances in Ovarian, Prostate, Lung and Melanoma Treatment

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“Science and Society” was the theme of this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 50th annual meeting. The meeting showcased  cancer research from around the world. Some new findings from Dana-Farber researchers included: Joyce Liu, MD, MPH, of the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers reported that, in a phase 2 clinical trial, a combination of olaparib (a drug that blocks DNA repair in cancer cells) and cediranib (which blocks blood vessel growth in tumors) was considerably more effective in women with recurrent ovarian cancer than olaparib alone.. Progression-free survival – the length of time after treatment when …

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How One Teacher Shared a Cancer Diagnosis with Her Students

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By Abby Morgan May 2013 was an exciting time for my husband and me.  We were in the process of buying our first house and thinking about starting a family. But, when a visit to the doctor to investigate pain in my right knee revealed a large mass, our excitement was quickly replaced with concern. After a series of tests, I was diagnosed with metastatic synovial sarcoma, a soft tissue cancer that had spread to my lungs. We were floored.  I had been healthy my entire life and had no other symptoms, but there I was, diagnosed at the age …

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Cancer Between the Lines

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Young adults often have their sights set on the future, anticipating college, working at their dream job, or traveling. One place they don’t plan to be is in an infusion chair undergoing cancer treatment. Cancer disrupts everyone, but especially adults age 18-34 who are growing into adulthood and starting careers and families. The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber works to help combat these unique challenges by providing emotional support from professionals, and by creating a special community. This resource also helps patients interact with their peers for support. One challenge young adults face is communicating what they are going through …

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Creative Coping Through Photographs

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By Kat Caverly In the book “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient” Norman Cousins explains that creativity is an effective therapy. I devoured this book during one of my three-hour chemotherapy infusions of Taxol. I was filled with such hope. I knew then I would be fine. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. As my mind struggled on what to do with this cancer diagnosis, I instinctively reached for my camera. But instead of looking through the lens at a subject or scenery, I turned it on myself. In addition to keeping a daily written …

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Is Chemo Working If I Don’t Lose My Hair?

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It’s well known that many chemotherapy medications used to treat cancer can bring undesirable side effects, such as hair loss, lack of appetite, and fatigue. But experiencing such symptoms is not an indication of whether cancer treatment is working. Chemotherapy interferes with a cell’s ability to grow and divide, so it tends to kill rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. However, some normal cells in our body also divide rapidly, such as hair cells and cells that create the stomach lining. Whether or not you will have side effects during cancer treatment depends on a variety of factors, including …

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‘Chemobrain’ Added to Cancer Survivorship Guidelines

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Cognitive dysfunction is a common and frustrating side effect for many patients who undergo chemotherapy. The condition – also called “chemobrain” – can create problems with memory, attention and concentration, information processing, and mental skills used for organizing and scheduling. For many years, medical professionals were skeptical that these cognitive issues were a real side effect of treatment, leaving patients frustrated by the lack of information and suggested remedies. However, numerous cognitive testing and brain imaging studies have demonstrated that cancer and its treatments do have a significant effect on cognition. As a result, physicians now recognize it as a widespread issue, …

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