Cocoa and Multivitamins: Two Keys to Better Health?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 23, 2014

Does the cocoa bean contain heart health benefits?

Is there something valuable for your heart inside the cocoa bean?

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Mars, Incorporated are partnering to conduct the largest-ever clinical investigation of the heart health benefits of cocoa flavanols – especially their role in reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease.

Flavanols are natural compounds that can be found in cocoa beans and a variety of other food sources. Although cocoa flavanols can be found in some forms of chocolate, they can be provided in significantly higher concentrations as a capsule or powder (mix). In this particular trial, the cocoa flavanols will be provided in a capsule and compared to a placebo.

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Colorectal Cancer: Do Men and Women Experience Different Symptoms?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 26, 2014

Men and women generally exhibit the same colorectal cancer symptoms.

While there are slightly more incidences of colorectal cancer in men (71,860 new cases projected in the U.S. in 2014) than women (65,000), both men and women generally exhibit the same symptoms of the disease, says Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt, clinical director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

“Many patients don’t have symptoms, but they’re diagnosed because they get a screening colonoscopy,” says Dr. Meyerhardt. Common symptoms for patients who do show signs of colon or rectal cancer include blood in the stool, changes in bowel habits, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. Some patients also have symptoms related to anemia, including increased tiredness or shortness of breath, or may be found to be anemic from routine blood work.

The risk factors for colorectal cancer — which include age, family history of the disease, or having Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis — are also similar for men and women, Dr. Meyerhardt says. However, some lifestyle choices also can increase risk. These include obesity, lack of physical activity, low vitamin D, and consuming a high amount of red meat, which may differ between men and women.

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Colorectal Cancer: Five Things You Need To Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 4, 2014

Thanks to increased awareness, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the U.S., with about 143,000 new patients diagnosed in the U.S. last year. But thanks to increased awareness about screenings, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years.

“For the most part, colorectal cancer is a curable and preventable disease,” says Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt, clinical director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “It is a cancer where we have very good data that shows screening prevents disease and saves lives.”

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Your Health History May Define Your Future

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving and other holidays offer great opportunities to discuss your family's medical history.

Every November since 2004, the Surgeon General has encouraged Americans to discuss and record health conditions shared among their family members.

Your family health history is important because it may impact your risk for developing cancer and other chronic diseases. For example, if one of your family members had cancer, your primary care doctor needs to know. Being able to identify an increased risk for certain conditions can help you and your doctor take action to keep you healthy. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found that patients who used a web-based tool to collect health information were more likely to have their family history documented.

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Lung Cancer – Five Things You Need to Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 25, 2013

A low-dose CT (computed tomography) scan is an important tool for detecting lung cancer early.

More than 228,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2013, according to the National Cancer Institute. With November marking Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Pasi Janne, director of the  Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), answers some key questions about the disease:

1.    What are the different types of lung cancer?

Lung cancer develops in the tissue of the lung, usually in the cells that line the air passages. There are several types of lung cancer:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer — Non-small cell lung cancer is named for the size of the cells when viewed under a microscope. It begins when epithelial cells inside the lining of the lungs grow rapidly or uncontrollably, often forming a tumor. This is the most common form of lung cancer.
  • Small cell lung cancer — Small cell lung cancer also is named for the size of the cells when viewed under a microscope. Affecting approximately 15 percent of lung cancer patients, it typically starts in the bronchial passages.
  • Mesothelioma — Although it is not technically a lung cancer, mesothelioma shares many of the same symptoms as lung cancer. Malignant mesothelioma is a disease in which cancer cells form in the linings of the organs, most often the pleura and sometimes the peritoneum.

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Great American Smokeout – Benefits of Going “Cold Turkey”

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 21, 2013

Your health is immediately improved when you quit smoking and these improvements continue for many years.

Today’s post is from Brigham and Women’s Hospital thoracic (chest) radiologist Francine Jacobson, MD, MPH, who specializes in lung cancer prevention and screening. Dr. Jacobson serves as a lung health resource for both her patients and their physicians.

Today marks the 36th annual Great American Smokeout, held annually in the US on the third Thursday in November. Public support for the willpower and the example set by not smoking, even for just one day, is a powerful accomplishment with which to embark on the holiday season – opened by the counting of blessings and overeating on Thanksgiving and closed by resolutions for self-improvement in the New Year.

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Genomics Transforms Personalized Medicine

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 20, 2013

Scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are building one of the world’s largest databases of genetic abnormalities in cancer.

The goal of personalized medicine is to match a treatment to the unique characteristics of an individual patient: his or her personal and family medical history, age, body size and other physical characteristics, and medical test results. But fundamentally, it is the DNA blueprint within cells that strongly influences a person’s risks of disease, how illnesses play out, and which drugs are likely to be most effective and with the fewest side effects. This is where the newest phase of personalized medicine is heading.

Today, the power of genomics and other DNA tools to uncover molecular patterns in the cells of patients – or in cancer patients, in the cells of their tumors – offers the potential to deliver precision treatment with maximum effect and safety. These molecular patterns reflect differences in the activity of genes and proteins, or abnormal changes,  such as mutations,  in the DNA code of genes that increasingly are being used to select the best treatment.

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Promising News about Fertility in Female Survivors of Childhood Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 7, 2013

A recent study shows that many women who had a cancer as a child can become pregnant.

Many women think that if they had cancer as a child, they might never have children. A recent study shows that though it may be little harder, many of these women are able to get pregnant.

Although women who survived childhood cancer face an increased risk of infertility, nearly two-thirds of those who tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for at least a year eventually conceived, according to researchers at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This is similar to the rate of eventual pregnancy among all clinically infertile women.

The new study is based on data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.  The study followed five-year survivors from 26 institutions who were under 21 when diagnosed with cancer. Researchers studied 3,531 sexually active women, age 18-39, who survived cancer and compared them to a group of 1,366 female siblings who did not have cancer.

Overall, 15.9 percent of women who survived childhood cancer were affected by infertility, with 12.9 percent trying to conceive for at least one year without success. (The remaining cancer survivors included in the infertile group had experienced ovarian failure and may not have even attempted pregnancy.)  Compared to their siblings, the cancer survivors had a 50 percent higher risk of infertility.  Despite higher rates of infertility, nearly two-thirds of cancer survivors conceived, on average, after another six months.  Among the comparison group of clinically infertile siblings, it took another five months to conceive, on average.

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Should You Consider a Preventive Mastectomy?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 30, 2013

Investigators found that many women opt for a preventive mastectomy despite knowing it will be unlikely to improve their chance of survival.

Young women with breast cancer often overestimate the odds that cancer will occur in their other, healthy breast, and decide to have the healthy breast surgically removed, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The research team, which included investigators from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), found that many women opt for the procedure – known as a contralateral prophylactic mastectomy, or CPM – despite knowing it will be unlikely to improve their chance of survival.

“An increasing percentage of women treated for early-stage breast cancer are choosing to have CPM,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Shoshana Rosenberg, of Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “The trend is particularly notable among younger women.”

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Brigham and Women’s Hospital Makes the Honor Roll

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 3, 2013

For the 21st consecutive year, Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) has been named to the U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals.

For the 21st consecutive year, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has been named to the U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals, ranking ninth. The Honor Roll highlights just 18 hospitals, out of nearly 5,000 nationwide, for their breadth and depth of clinical excellence.  We’ve gathered some recent blog posts from our ranked clinical categories to recognize the hard work and accomplishments of our doctors, nurses, researchers, and others.

#2 Gynecology

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology supports women through all stages of their lives – from planning a family to childbirth, menopause, and beyond.

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