What Are Carcinoid Tumors?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 14, 2016

Carcinoid tumor cells.

Carcinoid tumor cells.

Carcinoid tumors are rare, often slow-growing tumors that form from neuroendocrine cells found throughout the body. Carcinoid tumors most commonly arise in the gastrointestinal system, including the appendix, small intestine, or rectum, but may occur in other sites, including the lungs.

In most cases, there is no clear cause of carcinoid tumors. There does not appear to be a strong association between cases of these tumors and typical cancer risk factors such as smoking and exposure to environmental toxins. In rare cases, carcinoid tumors can be linked to hereditary conditions such as multiple endocrine neoplasia types 1 and 2 and Von-Hippel Lindau disease.

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Finding Happiness Despite Stage IV Lung Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 29, 2016

joann-and-girls

Joann (center) with her daughters, Mei and Lia.

Today’s post is written by Joann Totten, a patient at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

As a non-smoker, I never imagined I would be diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, let alone at age 50. But that’s what happened on Aug. 5, 2015, just six weeks after I started experiencing a non-productive cough. The doctors felt certain it was bronchitis, but as a radiation therapist for more than 20 years, I advocated for myself and insisted on a chest x-ray, which came back a bit abnormal. After additional testing for tuberculosis and pneumonia, I began experiencing shortness of breath and had another chest x-ray and CT scan. When I saw the scan, which was hard to believe was mine; I knew immediately I had cancer. A few days later, a biopsy confirmed my diagnosis: non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV.

Although it’s been more than a year, it’s still so hard to believe I have lung cancer. I never smoked, I exercise, and I eat very healthy; I thought I took pretty good care of myself. But cancer doesn’t discriminate; all you need are lungs to be diagnosed with this disease. Read More »

Allergic to Essential Medication?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 22, 2016

mast-cell-blog

Serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, occur when mast cell chemicals flood the body, causing an array of acute symptoms.

What do you do when your body is not tolerating a medication that you need?

Patients fighting cancer, severe infections, autoimmune disorders, and many other conditions may become sensitized to the very drugs that are most effective in treating their diseases. These patients can suffer serious allergy symptoms, such as hives, flushing, itching, shortness of breath, wheezing, hypotension, and even anaphylaxis – a severe life-threatening allergic reaction.

Because of the potential allergic reaction upon re-exposure to these drugs, these patients are often told that they can no longer be treated with their best medication. A technique called drug desensitization can be used to help these patients get back on their medications.

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Cancer Treatment and Fertility: Planning for the Future

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 25, 2012

Planning ahead can help preserve fertility in young cancer patients.

Imagine being 22 and having your two biggest fears come true: You have cancer, and your treatment may leave you unable to have children in the future.

While you’re still coming to terms with the diagnosis, you now have to make some major life decisions. Do you want to freeze your eggs? Or should you choose a sperm donor and freeze fertilized eggs instead? Don’t forget to consider your husband’s feelings — even though he isn’t even in your life yet.

“It was so overwhelming,” says Arieana Carcieri, who found herself facing this scenario last year after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. “I come from a big family and always wanted at least three kids. The cancer diagnosis alone was all-consuming — I didn’t anticipate the decisions I’d have to make about a future family.”

When Arieana learned that her cancer treatment could impact her ability to have children, she turned to Dr. Sara Barton, a fertility specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who collaborates with Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center. Dr. Barton sees many young women between the ages of 16 and 21 who are preparing for cancer treatment.

“These aren’t issues women typically think about in their early 20s, especially without a partner,” she said. “We’re asking them to make very mature, complicated decisions that are going to have a big impact on their life trajectory. A lot of girls think yes, I want kids, I want to do it. But then we have to talk about the reality of the situation and the financial cost.”

Cancer treatment can increase the rate at which a woman’s supply of eggs is depleted. Some chemotherapy accelerates the aging of a 20-something’s ovaries to that of a 35- or 40-year-old. Radiation can damage both the ovaries and the cells the uterus needs to regenerate each month, which are important to carry a healthy pregnancy.

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