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  • Using the Immune System to Fight Cancer

    Posted 3/5/2015 by hhill
      Twice a month, I have a wonderful late Wednesday afternoon group for women who have completed adjuvant treatment for breast cancer. This group is always one of my favorite parts of the week; the conversation is warm, supportive, wide-ranging, and helpful to us all. Yesterday we talked a lot about the future directions of cancer research, and there were a number of comments and questions about immunotherapy and the development of vaccines. Read more... Comments (0)
  • The Unwelcome Truth about Metastatic Cancer

    Posted 3/4/2015 by hhill
      This puts me in mind of Al Gore's film The Unpleasant Truth. As unwelcome as the truth about global warming, so is the reality about metastatic cancer. The truth about metastatic/advanced/Stage IV disease is that it is uncurable. Yes, there are occasional miracle reports about someone who is apparently cured of metastatic disease. There are a few kinds of cancer (e.g. testicular) where that is more likely, but the fact remains that, in almost all cases, cancer that has spread beyond the original or primary site is treatable, but not curable. Read more... Comments (1)
  • Making Difficult Decisions

    Posted 3/3/2015 by hhill
      It is not quite noon on Tuesday, and I have already spent a lot of time this week thinking and talking with patients about making difficult medical decisions. The first instance was a phone call with a 50 year old woman whom I have not met. She has been recently diagnosed with a Stage I breast cancer, and her oncologist has strongly recommended that she take an endocrine therapy, one of the so-called AIs. She is very reluctant to do so, wants to focus on "healthy living", but could not identify specific concerns or fears. We talked at some length, and my role seemed to be to remind her that I am not a doctor, encourage her to speak more with her doctors, but to share some of my observations over the years (that can be summarized by cancer is a sneaky and unpredictable foe) and to reassure her that most women do fine with these medications. Read more... Comments (0)
  • The Cost of Cancer Drugs

    Posted 3/2/2015 by hhill
      Everyone is aware of the escalating concerns about the cost of health care in the US. Drugs in general, and cancer drugs in specific, are one of the factors related to this growing crisis. I suspect that almost everyone agrees that we have a system that cannot continue indefinitely without some changes. I also suspect that shared beliefs quickly collide when we try to be more detailed about costs. "Value" is the word most often being used in conversation. What is the "value" of any particular treatment? Should there be criteria that are applied to all possibilities? Is it more of a case by case decision? And who gets to make the decision? Read more... Comments (0)
  • Managing Hair Loss

    Posted 2/27/2015 by hhill
      This is a repeated entry, with some updates, but a recurring topic of interest. Since I suspect that people new to cancer find this blog, I hope that these tips will be of value to women facing chemotherapy and hair loss for the first time. Just this week, I met with five women in this situation. They are all worried about chemo in general, but losing their hair looms largest and hardest. Read more... Comments (0)
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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

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