What to Expect in Your First Meeting with Your Oncologist

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, especially when you prepare for treatment with your care team. However, knowing what to prepare for can help make the process a little easier. Here’s what you can generally expect in your first meeting with your oncologist, and care team, after your diagnosis. Information collecting Before you meet with … Continued

What is an Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) Tumor Marker Test?

Tumor markers are substances in the human body that are produced by tumors and secreted into the blood, urine, or other bodily fluids. Certain benign conditions can also raise these markers, but significant elevations or a progressive rise can indicate a malignant process.  An AFP, or alpha-fetoprotein, tumor marker test—one of many different types of … Continued

What’s the Difference Between a Cyst and a Tumor?

A cyst is a sac-like pocket of tissue, filled with fluid, air, tissue, or other material that can form anywhere in the body. Cysts can be tiny or very large, and most cysts are benign (not cancerous). There are hundreds of different types of cysts that form for many different reasons, such as infections or … Continued

Does Cancer Cause Hair Loss?

It is widely assumed that if you have cancer, you will eventually lose all your hair. But is cancer itself the hair-loss culprit? The answer is no. Alopecia, or hair loss, occurs as a secondary result of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Both chemotherapy and radiation attack the rapidly growing cancer cells in your body. The … Continued

Is Cancer Really a ‘Battle’? [Podcast]

We hear it all the time: Cancer is a battle, and patients have to fight in order to increase their chances of a good outcome. It’s a common message used in the media, the premise being that a person’s cancer can be eradicated if they are tough enough. But does this put the burden of … Continued

For 95-Year-Old Dana-Farber Volunteer, Serving Cancer Patients is a Proud Privilege

Ingersoll “Sandy” Cunningham has the dignified, silver-haired appearance of a man you’d expect to find sipping tea with friends. So what is this Harvard-educated great-grandfather doing pushing food carts through the hallways of Dana-Farber, handing out sandwiches to patients? “You’ve got to have some objective when you get up in the morning, a purpose and … Continued

Do Wireless Headphones Cause Cancer?

Wireless Bluetooth headphones have become popular gadgets—and now, there is a debate about whether they can cause cancer. However, at this point, there is not enough evidence to definitively say that wireless headphones are dangerous. Some scientists are arguing that these headphones could potentially lead increase cancer risk due to the fact they emit radio … Continued

Why Is Stage IV Cancer Difficult to Treat?

The more widely cancer has spread from the site where it is first diagnosed, the more difficult it becomes to treat. Cancer is labeled stage IV when it is found not only in its original location, but also in distant tissues and organs. There are several staging systems used by pathologists and cancer specialists to … Continued

Does Coffee Cause Cancer?

The health risks (and benefits) of coffee have been investigated by medical professionals for years—but so far, there is not a concrete connection between coffee consumption and cancer. Overall, the health benefits of coffee seem to outweigh the bad. Multiple studies have shown that coffee consumption (without any of the added fats and sugars) is … Continued

How is Endometriosis Different from Endometrial Cancer?

Endometriosis is a non-cancerous disorder that occurs when tissue lining the inside of the uterus, known as the endometrium, appears in other parts of the body. It usually is found in the lower abdomen or pelvis but can appear in virtually any organ or tissue. Endometrial cancer, by contrast, occurs when cells in the endometrium … Continued

Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Tips for Sorting Fact From Fiction

Media reports on the effect of diet and physical activity on breast cancer risk can be head-spinning. One report may suggest that eating a particular food—broccoli, for example—can help prevent breast cancer. Another may conclude that a substance within that same food actually promotes the disease. How can you sort out the often conflicting and … Continued

Common Questions About Alternative and Integrative Therapies, Answered [Podcast]

The search for new and better cancer treatments has resulted in some incredible discoveries in recent years. Immunotherapy, a kind of cancer therapy that harnesses the immune system to fight cancer, has monumentally changed the way that some cancers are treated. Chemotherapy and radiation have greatly improved. And researchers are working on bringing more treatment … Continued

How to Tell Someone You Have Cancer

Telling someone you have cancer can be difficult. There will never be a perfect time to share this news, and often, people worry this information will place a burden on those closest to them. These barriers—difficulty, timing, and guilt—may sway people to avoid the topic entirely, and instead try to deal with a cancer diagnosis … Continued

What Causes Cancer to Spread?

When cancer spreads in the body, it is first and foremost due to changes, or mutations, in the DNA of cells. Because of a mutation or other abnormality in a cancer cell’s genome (the DNA stored in its nucleus), the cell may become separated from its neighbors and invade surrounding tissue. Other genomic breakdowns allow … Continued

Can X-Rays Cause Cancer?

While high doses of X-rays and other types of high-energy electromagnetic radiation are known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), most studies haven’t found a connection between exposure to low levels of radiation – such as those used in dental X-rays and mammograms – and increased cancer risk. Most of the evidence linking high levels of radiation exposure … Continued

What is a Precancerous Condition?

A condition is considered precancerous if it consists of abnormal cells that have an increased risk of turning cancerous. In many cases, people with such conditions can take steps to reduce the chance that cancer will develop. Physicians may prescribe treatments to prevent the cancer or recommend monitoring the condition for signs that it is … Continued

What’s the Latest on E-Cigarettes and Cancer?

Claiming that use of electronic cigarettes among young people is reaching “epidemic proportions,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has undertaken a range of measures to ensure compliance with laws banning sales to minors and is considering toughening its stance toward manufacturers that fail to prevent widespread youth use of their products. JUUL, a new … Continued

Menthol Cigarettes: 4 Common Questions Answered

Menthol cigarettes and regular cigarettes have a similar design, but menthol cigarettes use menthol additives either within the tobacco or, in certain brands, within or near the cigarette filter to release a burst of menthol flavor while smoking the cigarette. Regular cigarettes not labeled as containing menthol may also contain small but detectable quantities of … Continued

What is Cannabidiol (CBD)? Common Questions Answered

By Benjamin S. Kematick, PharmD, BCACP A clinical pharmacy specialist in Dana-Farber’s Division of Palliative Care CBD is a phytocannabinoid, a naturally occurring compound found in the flower of cannabis species. CBD is different from the better-known phytocannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in that it does not produce an intoxicating effect. Like CBD, THC is found in … Continued