Advocating for student cancer survivors

At age 7, Sophie was treated for a brain tumor at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center. As a result of her treatment, she struggled with ongoing fatigue, weakness on her right side, and chronic headaches.

Sophie began her freshman year as one of 2,000 students at a large public high school. Despite support from special education teachers, she struggled with the academic demands of her classes and the overwhelming size of the school. An extremely dedicated student, she spent hours each evening on homework, but she tired easily, which made the headaches worse, and she struggled to get through each school day.

More children than ever are surviving cancer. But some will pay a price in long-term effects. Radiation and chemotherapy for cancers involving the central nervous system (including brain tumors and leukemia) can impair problem-solving, multi-tasking, attention, and memory, putting students at risk for learning difficulties.

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Alcohol and breast cancer: What’s the risk?

For many women who enjoy a glass of wine, research showing that relatively small amounts of alcohol can raise their risk of breast cancer are disconcerting, to say the least. And confusing, too.

How much drinking is OK? Isn’t a glass of red wine a day good for your heart — and couldn’t that be more important?

In the past five or 10 years, knowledge about alcohol and breast cancer has been changing as studies produce new results and are publicized, sometimes over-dramatically, in the media. At the same time, there’s growing evidence that moderate drinking can be healthy for the heart.

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From old drugs, new cancer treatments

When it comes to finding better drugs for cancer, Dana-Farber oncologist Dr. David Frank is not a patient man. While new cancer science promises to bring novel, improved therapies to the bedside, it can take many years — and Frank isn’t willing to wait.

“We need to get new treatments to patients as soon as possible,” he says.

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Five tips for cancer caregivers

If you’re supporting a friend or family member who is undergoing cancer treatment, you may not think of yourself as a “caregiver.” It’s a role that can be very rewarding, but also challenging and stressful.

You may find yourself juggling an incredible range of duties above and beyond what you regularly do at home and at work. From driving your loved one to appointments, to discussing medical issues with health care professionals, to making dinner every night, you may find that you’re taking care of nearly everything – except yourself.

But your loved one’s well-being depends on you, so it’s important that you also take care of yourself. Nancy Borstelmann, LICSW, MPH, a licensed clinical social worker who serves as Dana-Farber’s director of patient and family support and education, shares some tips that may help.

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Tips for Protecting Your Skin in the Winter

Sunscreen shouldn’t be packed away just because it’s winter. Your skin can be exposed to harmful rays all year long. So before you hit the slopes, build a snowman, or head off to a tropical beach, take time to protect yourself, say skin care specialists at Dana-Farber. According to the American Cancer Society, snow, ice, and water can all … Read more

Treating childhood cancer worldwide

On International Childhood Cancer Day, it’s important to remember that global support, research, and treatment are vital to ensuring that children in developing countries have the same chance at survival as their peers in the U.S. Physicians such as Dr. Leslie Lehmann from Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center travel all over the world to deliver expert, curative care to young patients with cancer. Here is her story.

Rwanda is a tiny country in central Africa with much beauty but few resources. The genocide in 1994 that killed nearly a million people also devastated the health care system. Many people do not receive basic health care services and cancer care was nonexistent. It was impossible to even tell how common cancer was – people would die from a mass, or from bleeding, or infection without ever having a diagnosis.

The country has over 11 million people with not a single physician trained in caring for people with cancer. It’s a very sad situation.

This is beginning to change a bit. Through the Partners in Health (PIH) organization, I became part of a U.S.– Rwandan team led by Sara Stulac, PIH’s director of pediatrics, assembled at the Rwinkwavu hospital with the goal of providing consistent quality care to children with cancer. Sara had lived in Rwanda working at this rural PIH-sponsored hospital for six years. I went to Rwanda with Kathleen Houlahan, a pediatric oncology nurse and nurse director of the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, and Dr. Larry Shulman, medical oncologist and chief medical officer of Dana-Farber, who is Senior Oncology Adviser for PIH and leads Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center efforts in Rwanda. 

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World Cancer Day: Tips for prevention

As we recognize World Cancer Day today, it’s important to remember that one-third of cancer deaths worldwide are tied to lifestyle and diet, making them largely preventable. Dr. Judy Garber, director of Dana-Farber’s Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention, provides some perspective, and highlights some of the steps individuals can take to reduce their cancer … Read more

Obesity and Cancer: What’s the Link?

There are a lot of good reasons not to gain too much weight, but you might not be aware of this one: Growing evidence links obesity to a higher risk of developing cancer, and being overweight may worsen a cancer patient’s outlook.

Although more and more studies are finding this connection, scientists haven’t uncovered the biological mechanisms by which excess pounds make normal cells more likely to turn cancerous. But they are pursuing a large number of leads, some of which may uncover new ways of fighting cancer – including losing weight.

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Adult stem cells may hold key to better health

Sarah Knauss, famous for being among the oldest people in the world until her death at the age of 119, might have had more than just “good genes.” Dana-Farber’s Wayne Marasco, MD, PhD, says that adult stem cells – known for their healing and regenerative properties – might hold the key to a long and healthy life.

Marasco shared his expertise on the subject at the recent International Vatican Conference on Adult Stem Cells in Vatican City, Italy, an event attended by a select group of cardinals, clergy, and leading researchers and physicians from around the world.

“We have learned in the past 10 years that there are all kinds of stem cells that circulate in the blood – they aren’t just found in bone marrow,” said Marasco, of Dana-Farber’s Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS. “There are dozens of studies that support the fact that this is a large and dynamic population of cells that might help us keep our bodies healthy for a longer period of time.”

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HPV linked to head and neck cancer

Traditionally, patients with oral cancers tended to be older individuals with a long history of smoking and heavy alcohol use. In the past decade, however, that picture has changed dramatically.

Today, infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer in the U.S. and Western Europe. Oropharyngeal cancers affect the back of the throat (i.e. the tonsils and base of the tongue). HPV is the same virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer in women.

Patients with HPV-related head and neck cancers are often relatively young, not heavy drinkers or smokers, and come from all segments of society.

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