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  • Does it Help to Find a Recurrence Early

    Posted 7/27/2016 by hhill

      This is a difficult and very emotionally-charged topic. The answer is complicated and varies a great deal among different kinds of cancer. Even more specifically, the specific cell biology matters a great deal. For breast cancer, and I know that many readers of this blog have that diagnosis, the dogma is that survival is not extended by finding a recurrence early. That is, you will live just as long if the recurrence is identified because of a symptom in March than you will if the recurrence is identified by a test the previous November. There are no very reliable blood markers for breast cancer recurrence, although there are markers (e.g. CEA and CA 25.27) that can he helpful in tracking the value of ongoing treatment for known metastatic disease--in some women. In some other women, the markers are not ever useful.

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  • Spirituality Improves Outcomes

    Posted 7/26/2016 by hhill

      It has long been clear to me that patients who have faith, who carry a belief system, have a somewhat easier time with cancer and pain and burdens. It does not seem to matter what the belief is; it surely does not matter what denomination or religion someone practices. The core values (at least to me) are the same, and the comfort in feeling supported by God or something bigger than we are is clearly invaluable.

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  • Perspective

    Posted 7/25/2016 by hhill

      It is not always easy to sustain a mature perspective on life.Virtually all of us want to live long and healthy lives, and we experience varying degrees of anger when that wish is challenged.Of course we want to be around to watch our grandchildren grow up, but that goal can feel pretty lucky when the next person in the support group has 2 year old twins herself and does not anticipate seeing them reach kindergarten. It feels scary and sad and awful to be diagnosed with cancer when we are in our 60s or 70s or 80s, but it is not unreasonable to pause for a second and be grateful that this news did not come to us thirty years earlier. 

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  • Wonder Drug

    Posted 7/22/2016 by hhill

      I will begin by admitting that the title of this piece, Wonder Drug, is sort of a bait and switch tactic. The so-called drug in question is exercise. Before you hit "delete" or move away from the page, let me say that I have never been an athlete, that I rarely enjoy my daily exercise, that I have never experienced those famous endorphins that are supposed to flood long-distance runners. I have run a marathon, and it was an exercise to convince myself that I could do whatever I needed to do. For that self-confidence goal, it worked.

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  • Follow Up Care after Treatment

    Posted 7/21/2016 by hhill

      Many people are surprised at the rather minimalist approach to follow up care after breast cancer treatment. Ongoing oncology appointments vary, of course, doctor to doctor and practice to practice. There are big differences among different kinds of cancer with some requiring more tests and scans. If there are blood markers that are useful, as in leukemia or multiple myeloma or ovarian cancer, bloods are routine, and other tests may be offered, too. For other cancers, including breast cancer, the standard of care does not usually include invasive tests and is, instead, a clinical exam, a conversation, and an annual mammogram/possibly breast MRI.

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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

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