Finding Happiness Despite Stage IV Lung Cancer

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


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 »

Impact of Precision Medicine on Health Care

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 5, 2015


Identifying the most important mutations in cancer cells can help to develop targeted therapies.

The goal of precision medicine is to gather, analyze, and synthesize information about a person’s genes, proteins, microbes, environment, and health and combine this with data from the medical literature, clinical trials, and population health studies, to predict, prevent, and treat diseases for individual patients and populations of patients.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are applying precision medicine concepts to three areas to improve patient care.

  • Cancer: Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) has been a leader in research to systematically test large numbers of mutations and identify the genetic culprits in cancer cells. This genetic information can help determine the best way to care for cancer patients by using targeted therapies to attack tumor cells with specific abnormalities.

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