Genetic Testing, Cancer Risk, and Angelina Jolie’s Choice

Actress Angelina Jolie is no stranger to the headlines, but she stunned the world with her Op-Ed in The New York Times, in which she shared her very private decision to have a preventive double mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. “I hope that other women can benefit from my experience,” wrote Jolie. … Read more

Expecting a Baby—Not Cancer

Editor’s Note: This is the second in our series of stories celebrating Moms this Mother’s Day weekend. Yesterday, Michelle Maloney shared her story. Today, it’s Allison Bellevue’s turn.

By Christine Triantos

In one whirlwind year, Allison Bellevue moved to Boston, started a new job, met her future husband, and discovered she was pregnant. Compared to what followed, that year was a breeze.

When Bellevue, now 31, went for her first fetal ultrasound, doctors noticed a small mass on her right ovary. They told her it was likely a cyst, and they would keep an eye on it over time.

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Why Should I Get a Colonoscopy? (Colorectal Cancer)

Colonoscopy exams get a bad rap. Even though such exams are brief and painless, many people fear and avoid them. Roughly one third of Americans for whom the exams are recommended are not getting them. Yet colonoscopy is one of the most effective of all cancer prevention methods. As many as 60% of colon cancer deaths could be … Read more

What Happens If You’re Allergic to Your Chemo Drugs?

Before Oct. 31, 2012, I would have probably guessed that desensitization was a process invented by mental health professionals to make really sensitive people less sensitive. I might have inquired about the cost to put my four-year-old son through “desensitization” so that he wouldn’t throw such a fit when he lost a game of knee hockey in our basement.

Now I know that desensitization is a life-saving process necessary to treat cancer patients like me.

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Mental Fog, Chemotherapy Side Effect, Is Real and Often Treatable

Not long ago, doctors were often skeptical when cancer patients who had undergone chemotherapy complained that they were mentally foggy; unable to plan a week’s worth of meals or organize their finances as they could before. Patients called this side effect “chemobrain” and were frustrated by the lack of recognition – or suggested remedies – from their physicians.

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Better Coverage for Oral Chemo: Why It Matters

When Gov. Deval Patrick signed an oral chemotherapy parity bill into law on January 5, Massachusetts joined more than 20 states requiring health plans to cover oral cancer pills at a rate no less favorable than standard intravenous (IV) chemotherapy. The new law tells insurers that they cannot require higher patient costs for oral chemotherapy, and it helps ensure that all forms of chemotherapy are accessible and affordable to Massachusetts cancer patients.

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Managing Cancer Risk: Miss America Contestant’s Decision Puts Genetics and Cancer Center Stage

Win or lose, Miss America contestant Allyn Rose made news with her decision to undergo a double mastectomy. According to the Associated Press, Rose, who lost her mother to breast cancer, inherited a rare genetic mutation which might put her at greater risk for developing cancer.

Her decision to have the preventive surgery has sparked questions about genetics, cancer risk and strategies for preventing cancer.

If you have a question about genetic factors that increase cancer risk, you can ask the Dana-Farber cancer genetics team.

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Can Breast Cancer Patients Avoid Multiple Surgeries?

When Jane Davis was diagnosed with breast cancer last July, she began learning as much as she could about her disease. Davis quickly discovered one of the most startling statistics about breast cancer: Up to 40 percent of women who have a lumpectomy require a second surgery. That’s because surgeons often cannot microscopically remove the entire tumor.

But Mehra Golshan, MD, FACS, director of Breast Surgical Services at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, is trying to change that with a phase I breast surgery pilot study. It’s the first of its kind in the world.

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Proton Therapy No Better Than Traditional Therapy for Prostate Cancer Patients

This post was originally published in December 2012.

When it comes to treating prostate cancer, proton radiotherapy (PRT) is no better than traditional intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), according to a new study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on Friday.

PRT is an advanced but expensive treatment option for some prostate cancer patients. However, the researchers found that the therapy offers no added treatment benefit than the standard therapy. The article concluded: “Although PRT is substantially more costly than IMRT, there was no difference in toxicity in a comprehensive cohort of Medicare beneficiaries with prostate cancer at 12 months post-treatment.”

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Does Breast Density Affect Mammogram Results?

While there are genetic and lifestyle risks for breast cancer, some may not realize that breast density also plays a significant role in risk for the disease.  Breasts are considered dense if they are mostly made up of glandular and fibrous tissue and not much fat. Breast density can be seen only on a mammogram; the firmness of breasts is … Read more

Stem Cell Transplant vs. Bone Marrow Transplant: What’s the Difference?

A stem cell transplant can be referred to as a bone marrow transplant (BMT) or peripheral blood stem cell transplant (PBSCT) or umbilical cord blood transplantation (UCBT), depending on the source of the cells that are transplanted. In other words, the only real distinction between a bone marrow transplant and a stem cell transplant in the method … Read more

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.

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