Brain Cancer Patient: Can Access to Medical Data Save Lives?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 24, 2016

The MRI image above shows a tumor in Steven Keating’s frontal left lobe.

The MRI image above shows a tumor in Steven Keating’s frontal left lobe.

After participating in a brain research study, Steven Keating avidly collected and examined his personal medical data. Steven’s curiosity ultimately helped to identify his own brain tumor, a glioma, which was removed in the Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating Suite (AMIGO) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2014.  Based on this experience, Steven is now a vocal advocate of providing patients with open access to their medical information. In this video, Steven shares the incredible story of how his life-long curiosity helped identify his brain tumor – and how curiosity about medical data also can help others.

Read More »

Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer May Increase Risk of Depression

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 19, 2016

Paul Nguyen, MD, radiation oncologist

Paul Nguyen, MD, radiation oncologist

A new Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) study has found a significant association between depression and patients being treated for localized prostate cancer (PCa) – cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate – with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). Through drugs or surgery, ADT reduces a patient’s level of androgen hormones to prevent prostate cancer cells from growing.

“We know that patients on hormone therapy often experience decreased sexual function, weight gain, and have less energy – many factors that could lead to depression,” says senior author Paul Nguyen, MD, of Radiation Oncology at BWH. “After taking a deeper look, we have discovered a significant association between men being treated with ADT for PCa and depression.”

Nguyen calls this discovery “a completely under-recognized phenomenon.” Around 50,000 men are treated with ADT each year.

Read More »

Treatment Options for Meningioma

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 12, 2016

Dr. Ian F. Dunn

Dr. Ian F. Dunn, BWH Department of Neurosurgery

In observation of Brain Tumor Awareness Month, today’s blog post was written by Ian Dunn, MD, Department of Neurosurgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

A meningioma is a type of tumor that develops from the meninges, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. About 85 percent of meningiomas are categorized as benign tumors. Because most benign meningiomas grow slowly, they may reach a relatively large size before causing symptoms, such as headaches, blurred vision, seizures, numbness, weakness in the arms or legs, or speech difficulty.

There are generally three treatment options for meningiomas: observation, surgery, and radiation. The BWH Department of Neurosurgery is also conducting clinical trials to identify new therapies.

Read More »

The Latest Research and Treatment for Adult Brain Tumors

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 5, 2016

Patrick Wen, M.D. and David Reardon, M.D. look at a computer with an image of an MRI. Photographed for BWH onclolgy advances.

Patrick Wen, MD, (left) and David Reardon, MD, are exploring new treatment options for adult brain tumors.

Historically, brain tumors have been some of the most challenging types of cancers to treat. A protective barrier around the brain – called the “blood-brain barrier” – can prevent cancer treatments from reaching the tumor. Recently, increased interest in immunotherapy has given new hope to getting through this barrier.

“We know the immune system can get into the brain to fight infections and inflammatory conditions,” says David Reardon, MD, Clinical Director in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “Our current research is moving forward to a level where we’re critically confirming that these immunotherapy drugs are getting into the brain and making a difference.”

Read More »

Breast Cancer – New Surgical Advances

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 3, 2016

Breast cancer management today often incorporates a “less is more” approach.

Breast cancer management today often incorporates a “less is more” approach.

Current trends in breast cancer management incorporate a “less is more” approach in many cases. This includes surgical treatment for breast cancer.

“We are finding that we can perform less extensive surgery and offer easier approaches for many patients with breast cancer, while still achieving excellent outcomes,” says Dr. Tari A. King, Chief of Breast Surgery and a member of the Breast Oncology Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

Previous surgical treatment plans, for example, included full lymph node surgery for the presence of any cancer in the lymph nodes located under the arm. This can result in long-term arm swelling, a condition known as lymphedema. Recent studies have shown that, in patients with a limited amount of cancer in the lymph nodes (cancer in one or two nodes), it is not necessary to remove all of the remaining nodes.  The lymph nodes can remain in place and the cancer can be successfully treated with other modalities, such as medical and radiation therapies.

Read More »

Melanoma – What You Should Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 28, 2016

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and the most common of all cancers among 25- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. The American Academy of Dermatology designates the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday®, a day to focus on raising awareness about this dangerous disease and other types of skin cancer.

 

Sun-SafetySun Safety – Reducing Your Melanoma Risk

Reducing your exposure to ultraviolet rays, from sunlight and artificial light, is one of the most significant ways to reduce your risk of developing melanoma. Although it isn’t summer yet, the effects of the sun now are similar to that of a mid-August day. Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) dermatologist Dr. Deborah Scott offers some tips to help you stay safe in the sun.

Read More »

Preventive Mastectomy Rates Increase despite Lack of Survival Benefit

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 31, 2016

Patients and caregivers should weigh the expected benefits with the potential risks of .

Patients and caregivers should weigh the expected benefits with the potential risks of a contralateral (double) prophylactic mastectomy.

A recent Brigham and Women’s (BWH) study reveals that from 2002 to 2012, the number of women choosing to have both of their breasts removed as a strategy to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer – a procedure known as contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM) – tripled in the U.S., but without a corresponding improvement in  survival. Researchers note that while CPM may have a survival benefit for patients that are at high risk of developing breast cancer, such as those with a genetic mutation, the majority of women undergoing CPM are at low risk for developing breast cancer in the unaffected breast.

“Our analysis highlights the sustained, sharp rise in popularity of CPM, while contributing to the mounting evidence that this more extensive surgery offers no significant survival benefit to women with a first diagnosis of breast cancer,” says senior author Dr. Mehra Golshan, Distinguished Chair in Surgical Oncology at BWH. “Patients and caregivers should weigh the expected benefits with the potential risks of CPM, including prolonged recovery time, increased risk of operative complications, cost, the possible need for repeat surgery, and effects on self image.”

Read More »

Prostate Cancer Screening – Who Recommends PSA Testing?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 17, 2016

prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing for the early detection of prostate cancer may depend on the type of physician a patient sees.

The likelihood of a patient getting a PSA test for the early detection of prostate cancer may depend on the type of physician he sees.

Recent research led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggests that the likelihood of a patient getting prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing for the early detection of prostate cancer depends on the type of physician he sees.

In October 2011, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a recommendation against the use of PSA testing for prostate cancer screening for all men. In its assessment, the task force concluded that, overall, the harms of PSA testing outweigh its benefits. The study authors, however, hypothesized that adoption of the USPSTF recommendation would vary according to a physician’s specialty.

The researchers examined PSA testing use among primary care physicians (PCPs) and urologists in the year immediately before the recommendation was issued and the year immediately afterward. To focus on preventive care visits, men previously diagnosed with prostate cancer, an elevated PSA level, or other prostate conditions were excluded from the study.

The study found that PSA testing for men aged 50-74 years decreased significantly from 36.5 percent in 2010 to 16.4 percent in 2012 among PCPs. However, during those same years, such testing among urologists only decreased from 38.7 percent to 34.5 percent.

Read More »

Five Things You Need to Know about Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 8, 2016

Jeffrey Meyerhardt

Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt

While one of the most common cancers in both men and women, colorectal cancer remains a very preventable disease, says Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, Clinical Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC).

“Most of these cancers develop over a period of years,” says Dr. Meyerhardt. “While not preventable in everyone, the earlier you detect the disease, the more curable it is.”

Below are some tips from Dr. Meyerhardt on ways to reduce your risk.

Live a healthy lifestyle.

“There are various dietary factors that play a role in colorectal cancer,” explains Dr. Meyerhardt. “The one that’s the most consistently shown in studies is red and processed meat.” To lower your risk, Dr. Meyerhardt recommends eating fewer than two servings of red or processed meat per week. This includes foods such as steak, hamburgers, and hot dogs.

Read More »

Names on Construction Beam Lift Spirits of Pediatric Cancer Patients

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 23, 2015

The names of two dozen pediatric cancer patients from Boston hospitals have been spray-painted on a construction beam that will soon support a new cafeteria at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Tucked away on Shattuck Street, facing the windows of Boston Children’s Hospital, the names “Brooklyn,” “Nicholas,” “Kevin,” and many others are spray-painted in bright orange, light blue, pink, and white on a steel beam that will support the new cafeteria at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), which is undergoing renovation.

The two dozen names belong to pediatric patients from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Department of Radiation Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, including 5-year-old Brooklyn, who was the first patient to have her name spray-painted on the 63-ton beam. After seeing a Facebook post written by Brooklyn’s mother, a family friend working on the construction site was inspired to begin spray-painting the children’s names.

“Seeing Brooklyn’s name on that steel beam is a feeling I will never forget,” says Kerrin Dooley, Brooklyn’s mother. “To me, the beam is a symbol of community, caring, support, strength, and teamwork – all critical aspects in the fight against cancer.”

Read More »