DNA Test May Offer Alternative to Pap Smear

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel has recommended that a DNA test should be the primary screening tool for cervical cancer, rather than the traditional Pap smear. The DNA test detects the DNA of human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted infection that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. “This is an important step forward for cervical cancer screening,” says Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Specifically, the DNA test screens for HPV-16 and HPV-18, the two highest-risk HPV strains, as well as 12 other high-risk HPV …

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How to Discuss Difficult Medical Decisions with Your Family

By Bethany-Rose Daubman, MD As a palliative care physician, part of my job is to help foster communication among family members making difficult health care decisions. This often relates to end-of-life matters, a topic I’ve grown comfortable with. In the department of psychosocial oncology and palliative care at Dana-Farber, my colleagues and I describe health care proxies and power of attorneys, discuss the differences between allowing a loved one a natural death and “pulling the plug,” and use a family’s natural rhythms of communication to guide these conversations. You’d think my own family would have all of this figured out, but …

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Top 10 Insight Stories from 2013

As 2013 comes to a close, we’re looking back at some of our favorite Insight posts from the last year. From inspiring patient stories to important research, here is our top 10 list:

New Study: Nuts Linked to Reduced Risk of Pancreatic and Other Cancers

An analysis of data from the decades-long Nurses’ Health Study revealed that women who ate a one-ounce serving of nuts – any kind of nuts – two or more times a week had a 35 percent lower risk of pancreatic cancer than women who abstained from them. That’s a significant and encouraging piece of news for a field that has had far too little.

Seven Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holidays

As the holiday season fills with family gatherings, travel and potluck parties, it is important to be extra attentive to avoiding germs. In addition to getting a flu shot, there are a number of other ways to prevent illness. Candace Hsieh, RN, CIC, of Dana-Farber’s Center for Patient Safety, offers some tips for staying healthy and reducing the chance for infection:

Questions to Ask When Your Child Finishes Cancer Treatment

By Julia Pettengill Our daughter Sophie was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2½, and received two years of care at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. While I felt tremendous joy and relief when she completed treatment, I also found the experience traumatic.

Cancer Diagnosis Leads to Nursing Career

By Maggie Loucks, NP-C When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 28, during my last semester of graduate school, I remember thinking that this had to mean something. I needed to turn an unfortunate situation into something positive, so I decided to pursue oncology nursing where I felt I could make a difference. 

Managing the Holidays When You Have Cancer

By Julie Salinger, LICSW The holiday season is full of cheer, but it can also be stressful, especially for cancer patients and their family caregivers. In addition to the extra time spent on shopping, cooking, and socializing, family interactions may bring complex dynamics, old grievances, and varying expectations to the forefront. The pressure to be “festive” can make even the healthiest person weary. Here are some tips for patients and their families for an enjoyable holiday season.

Lung Cancer: Five Things You Need to Know

More than 228,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2013, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). With November marking Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Pasi A. Jänne, MD, PhD, director of Dana-Farber’s Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology, answers some key questions about the disease: