Five Things You Need to Know About Glioblastomas

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 9, 2014

Glioblastoma is the most common type of primary brain tumor.

The Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center brings together cancer experts from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to offer state-of the-art treatment for patients with brain tumors, spinal cord tumors, and neurologic complications from cancer. Today’s post originally appeared on Insight, the blog of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Glioblastomas are the most common primary cancer of the brain. Although it is a fast-moving cancer, doctors know a lot about this type of tumor and are finding ways to fight it.

Here are five things you need to know about glioblastomas:

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Twenty-Two Years and Counting – Brigham and Women’s Hospital Ranked on U.S. News Honor Roll

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 31, 2014

BWH has been named to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals.

For the twenty-second year in a row, 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 17 hospitals, out of nearly 5,000 nationwide, for their breadth and depth of clinical excellence.

We’ve gathered a few recent blog posts in our top ranked clinical categories to recognize the dedication and accomplishments of our doctors, nurses, researchers, and other members of our clinical teams.

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Five Myths about Breast Cancer

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

Talk to your doctor to avoid misinformation about breast cancer.

Cancer experts from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute work together to provide cancer patients the latest therapies, including access to innovative clinical trials through Brigham and Women’s/Dana-Farber Cancer Center.  Today’s post originally appeared on Insight, the blog of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

There’s a broad range of news and information about breast cancer online. That creates wonderful opportunities to learn about prevention, treatment, cures, and recurrence. But it also means you may run into confusing misinformation and oversimplifications.

Here are some popular misconceptions:


Most breast cancer is hereditary. While it’s true that a woman’s risk factor for developing breast cancer doubles if a first-degree relative has the disease, this statistic doesn’t tell the whole story.

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Reaching Areas Deep in the Brain

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 30, 2014

Celebrating Life: Jill Colter (right) celebrates her 50th birthday with her mom, Elizabeth (left), two months after undergoing an innovative procedure to treat a brain tumor resulting from Stage IV melanoma.

For many patients with brain tumors or other abnormal tissue located deep in the brain, treatment options have been limited. Last year, Jill Colter, now 50, discovered that a brain tumor resulting from Stage IV melanoma had returned. “Several years earlier, I had treatment with surgery and radiation, but the tumor came back,” Jill says. Due to the location of Jill’s tumor and her prior radiation, surgery and further radiation weren’t possible to treat her tumor.

Jill was referred to neurosurgeon Alexandra Golby, MD, Director of Image-guided Neurosurgery and Clinical Co-director of the Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) Suite at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a key member of the Center for Neuro-Oncology team at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

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What’s the Difference Between Melanoma and Skin Cancer?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 29, 2014

It is important to visit your dermatologist with any questions or concerns about moles or unusual areas of the skin.

Many people consider skin cancer to be synonymous with melanoma. As May marks Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, it is important to understand that melanoma is only one type of skin cancer. Other forms of the disease are less aggressive and more common.

Melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer, with approximately 76,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. It is also the most aggressive and the most likely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, which are the cells in the lowest layer of the epidermis. Possible signs of melanoma include a change in the appearance of a mole or pigmented area of the skin.

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Transoral Robotic Surgery: Minimally Invasive Treatment for Head and Neck Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 21, 2014

With robotic surgery (left), there is no incision and no scars, while open surgery (right) involves an incicsion from the lip to the ear.

With robotic surgery (left), there is no incision and no scars, while open surgery (right) involves an incicsion from the lip to the ear.

Head and neck (oropharyngeal) cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the U.S., with nearly 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Though tobacco and alcohol use can raise the risk of developing the disease, exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV) poses an even greater risk. People who have had an oral HPV infection have a 50 times greater risk of developing head and neck cancer versus the general population. Currently, nearly three quarters of head and neck tumors test positive for HPV. A growing number of these newly diagnosed cases are among men in their forties and fifties.

Since the early 1990s, patients with head and neck cancers have been treated primarily with chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery has been avoided as a first line treatment because head and neck tumors can be difficult to reach, requiring invasive surgery that can affect organ function, lead to swallowing difficulties, and require a feeding tube.

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The Latest about Mammography: Benefits, Risks, and Choices

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 8, 2014

Opinions continue to vary about when a woman should start getting a mammogram and how frequently thereafter.

A team of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers recently examined 50 years of international breast cancer screening research data to assess the benefits and risks of mammography. Their determination: the benefits of mammography are modest, and the harms are significant, making it very important that women make informed decisions about screening.

“There are benefits to mammography in decreasing the likelihood that a woman will die of breast cancer,” says report co-author Dr. Nancy Keating, a physician in the BWH Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care and an associate professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. “But those benefits are not enormous.”

Those benefits also vary according to age, as well as other risk factors, such as family history. The report authors estimate that for every 10,000 women aged 40-49 who get annual mammograms for the next 10 years, approximately 190 of those women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Of those 190, 5 will avoid death because of getting a regular mammogram, 25 will die regardless of their regular screening, and the majority (160) will survive, also regardless of regular screening. As a woman gets older, however, the benefit of routine mammography steadily increases, accounting for:

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Sun Safety – Reducing Your Melanoma Risk

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 5, 2014

Seek shade when the sun's rays are strongest – between 10am and 2pm, or when your shadow is shorter than you.

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 (AAD) 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.
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 an early August day. To help you stay safe in the sun, here are some tips from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) dermatologist Dr. Deborah Scott, Director of the Laser and Skin Health Center, Co-Director of the Multicultural Dermatology Program, and Co-Director of the Hair Loss Clinic.

As you prepare to head outdoors, I would like to remind you that excessive sun exposure is one of the primary causes of skin cancer of all types, including melanoma. More than two million people are diagnosed with more than 3.5 million skin cancers annually, and this includes people of all skin colors. Many of these skin cancers could have been prevented with protection from the sun’s rays.

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Meningiomas: Five Things You Should Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 30, 2014

A meningioma may reach a relatively large size before it causes symptoms.

Today’s blog post is about meningiomas, a common type of primary brain tumor, in observation of Brain Tumor Awareness Month during May.

A meningioma is a type of tumor that develops from the meninges, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas (90 percent) are categorized as benign tumors, with the remaining 10 percent being atypical or malignant. In many cases, benign meningiomas grow slowly. This means that depending upon where it is located, a meningioma may reach a relatively large size before it causes symptoms.

Meningiomas account for about 27 percent of primary brain tumors, making them the most common tumor of that type. Here are some common questions about meningiomas, with answers from our neurosurgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH):

What are the risk factors of meningiomas?

Meningiomas are most common in people between the ages of 40 and 70, and are more common in women than in men. Meningiomas are very rare in children, with pediatric cases accounting for only 1.5 percent of the total. There are not many predisposing factors associated with the development of meningiomas, but a few include:

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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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