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We offer a wide range of clinical care programs and specialized services to address the needs that patients and families may experience after a cancer diagnosis.
BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT SURVIVORSHIP | CARDIAC ONCOLOGY | INTEGRATIVE THERAPIES | LIFESTYLE MEDICINE | LYMPHEDEMA MANAGEMENT | THE NETWORK FOR PATIENTS & FAMILIES | NEUROTOXICITY AND COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT PROGRAM | NUTRITION | PAIN MANAGEMENT | PEER MATCHING PROGRAM | PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY | PHYSICAL THERAPY AND OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY | PRIMARY CARE AFTER A CANCER DIAGNOSIS | PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY | REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH/FERTILITY | SEXUAL HEALTH | SOCIAL WORK | TOBACCO CESSATION
The Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) Survivorship Program aims to improve the experience and outcomes of BMT survivors and their families.
To make an appointment or for more information about the program, please visit the Bone Marrow Transplant Survivorship Program or call 617-726-5765.
The Cardio-Oncology Program at Mass General is a joint initiative between the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center and the Mass General Cancer Center. It is designed to coordinate care for cancer patients or cancer survivors who have heart disease or are at risk of developing it. To make an appointment or for more information about the program, please visit Cardio-Oncology or call 866-644-8910.
There are clear connections between our mental health and our physical health and treatments that focus on the whole person can help patients feel better, tolerate treatments better, and recover faster after cancer.
Integrative therapy is designed to help patients with cancer by addressing the connections between the mind, body and spirit and the impact that relaxation and a positive lifestyle can have on healing. It involves treatments that are designed to complement traditional cancer therapy and improve quality of life, emotional health, and symptom control. Services include acupuncture, massage therapy, art therapy, music therapy, qigong and Tai Chi.
Some treatments are proven to help with specific problems, such as acupuncture for hot flashes, or Tai Chi for fatigue. If you are interested in integrative therapy services, visit the integrative therapy web page or ask your doctors and nurses about these services and any specific or general health issues you would like to address. You can also contact the integrative therapy program to learn more and decide if one of these treatments is right for you.
The integrative therapy program offers drop in sessions where you can learn more about self-care techniques, or about specific services such as acupuncture or music therapy. Please see the integrative therapy web page for information on times and locations. In addition, many of the integrative therapy services described here and in the resource section below may be available in your own community.
To make an appointment or for more information about the program, visit Integrative Therapies.
If you are no longer in active treatment and are interested in any of these services, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-726-4178 to schedule an appointment.
If you are in active treatment and are interested in any of these services (including drop-in classes), please talk to your care team first, as some services require a referral from your physician. After speaking with your care team, email email@example.com or call 617-726-4178 to schedule an appointment.
Lifestyle Medicine is the use of interventions such as exercise, diet, stress management, and smoking cessation in the treatment and management of disease. Cancer patients are vulnerable to loss of physical function and changes in quality of life and mood as a result of treatment for their disease. As novel treatments help patients to live longer, attention to improving fitness, function, and quality of life has become increasingly important.
Many cancer survivors decrease their level of physical activity during treatment with a return to pre-diagnosis levels in less than half of survivors. Adoption and maintenance of physical activity is a challenge for all adults and an even greater challenge after a cancer diagnosis. The American Cancer Society recommends:
You can begin by asking your provider if there are any limitations for you to continue or begin an exercise program or for asking for a referral to resources such as the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, physical therapy, a cancer center nutritionist, or the Mass General Weight Center.
To make an appointment or for more information about the program, call 617-724-400 or visit Lifestyle Medicine.
Appointments are available at the Mass General Cancer Centers in Boston and Waltham.
Lymphedema is swelling caused by fluid that collects in tissue under the skin. People who have had treatment for breast cancer are at risk for developing lymphedema. Patients who have undergone surgery or radiation therapy to the lymph nodes as part of their breast cancer treatment have greater risk of developing lymphedema. Breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL) can occur in the breast, chest wall, arm and/or hand.
BCRL may develop soon after breast surgery or radiation, or it may happen weeks, months, or even years later. This is why it is important to be regularly screened for possible changes in arm volume, even well after completion of breast cancer treatment. Research shows that most BCRL occurs around two years after surgery.
Because lymphedema is a chronic disease that may cause swelling of the arm, become uncomfortable, and pose an increased risk of infection, it is important to be screened regularly for arm volume changes. Women with later stages of lymphedema may experience impaired arm and body function that can severely impact quality of life for many years after completion of cancer treatment. As there is currently no cure, the importance of early screening, detection, and intervention is critical.
The Lymphedema Studies Team at Mass General is a multidisciplinary team comprised of oncologists, physical therapists, clinical research coordinators, nurse practitioners, and patient advocates. We are committed to minimizing the incidence of lymphedema in all our breast cancer survivors, and detecting this condition in very early stages through ongoing screening to prevent progression. To date, our team has longitudinally screened over 4,500 patients.
Working together, we:
Per standard of care at Mass General, all newly diagnosed breast cancer patients are monitored for lymphedema using a device called a Perometer (pictured below). This is a non-invasive and quick method to measure changes in arm volume. We measure your arms before surgery, after surgery, and at the time of regular follow-up appointments with your treating oncologist.
While preventative methods for BCRL are still a topic of research and investigation, you can reduce your risk of developing this condition through safely controlled exercise, maintaining an ideal body weight, and avoiding infection in the arm at risk of lymphedema. Contact your treatment team immediately if an area of your arm or chest becomes red, painful or swollen, or if you have fever or chills. These symptoms can be signs of infection and should be treated immediately.
Regular exercise is important for many reasons—research suggests that regular upper body exercise can be important in controlling swelling. Exercise is good for your circulation and helps you reach or maintain your ideal weight. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends an exercise program that includes 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (such as running) or 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as walking, swimming) per week for breast cancer survivors. In addition, they suggest that 6-8 resistance (or weight) exercises for the arms and legs should be included in the exercise program. Our advice is to approach an exercise program slowly and mindfully, allowing the comfort level of your arms to guide you in how quickly to increase your activities. Seek out supervision when you start an exercise program to ensure the program is safe for you. Remember that developing lymphedema is a possibility, but it is not a certainty. Be mindful, but not fearful about using your arm. Feel free to discuss your questions with your physician, nurse, or physical therapist.
To make an appointment or for more information about the program, call 617-643-1306 or visit the Lymphedema Treatment Program.
The Network for Patients & Families is a peer survivorship program of the Mass General Cancer Center for patients, family members and friends who are living with, through, and beyond a cancer diagnosis and treatment, including those who are living with cancer as a chronic disease. The Network offers our experienced patients and caregivers support and builds a community of cancer survivors through bi-monthly Network meetings, the opportunity to participate in the Network Peer Matching Program as a Peer Mentor, and the opportunity to assist with the coordination of the Mass General Cancer Center’s Annual Survivorship Conference for Patients and Families.
Patients and family members often describe the cancer experience as challenging, overwhelming, isolating and life-altering. The cancer journey begins with diagnosis, progresses through the course of treatment, and for many the physical, and emotional impact extends beyond their visits to the Cancer Center.
For those whose treatment has ended, joining the Network for Patients & Families offers the opportunity for patients and caregivers to be with others who have experienced firsthand and learned to navigate the challenges of cancer. The Network also includes individuals who may continue in treatment due to cancer recurrence or engage in ongoing clinical trials.
Network members report significant benefits of regular meetings at the Cancer Center that offers them ongoing peer support in their own survivorship. Their involvement also ensures that the patient and family member voice is integrated into program planning and facilitation of the Annual Survivorship Conference and other Cancer Center initiatives. Network members report satisfaction in staying connected with the Cancer Center as they move beyond treatment and want to “give back”. Empowered by all they have learned on their personal journey, they want to make a difference by providing support and hope to newly diagnosed patients or to those coping with transitions in treatment. These individuals choose to participate in the Network Peer Matching Program. They become Network Peer Mentors to share their experiences of cancer and coping and to support and inspire hope in others.
When you first move out of treatment, you are encouraged to focus on re-acclimating to the family, work, spiritual and social life that predated your diagnosis and treatment. You have been in treatment for weeks and months and you will need time, patience and support from others in this transition.
As you move further out from treatment and gradually begin to feel more grounded in yourself and life away from Mass General again, you might find a growing interest in being with others who have had to deal with cancer and treatment. Becoming a member of the Network for Patients & Families offers this opportunity for connection and support as you move on.
For more information about the program or to join, please call 617-643-1784. The Network Program Coordinator, Paula Gauthier, LICSW, interviews all new members who would like to join the Network. For those also interested in volunteering with the Network Peer Matching Program, Paula trains the peer mentors, and facilitates and supervises Network peer matches.
Current cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation, can cause disturbing acute and chronic toxicities and damage to the nervous system. These side effects from cancer therapy may lead to various symptoms in patients, such as cognitive and memory impairment, fatigue, mood alterations, and neuropathy. Brain imaging may demonstrate various metabolic and structural changes.
Neurotoxic adverse effects from both radiation and chemotherapy can compromise quality of life and overall wellbeing of patients, both during active therapy and in cancer survivors. Treatment related adverse effects, such as peripheral neuropathy, fatigue or cognitive impairment can be minimized or in some cases even prevented with appropriate management.
Comprehensive patient evaluation is important to eliminate and treat factors that might contribute to worsening of neurological symptoms and can help identify strategies to treat symptoms and to accelerate recovery.
The Neurotoxicity and Cognitive Impairment Program integrates most recent basic science discoveries into translational and clinical studies with the ultimate goal to optimize patient care and to improve quality of life of cancer patients undergoing treatment and of long-term survivors.
To make an appointment or for more information about the program, please call 617-643-5844 or 617-724-8770.
Certified oncology dietitians specialize in one-on-one counseling for patients who want to boost their immune systems, promote healing, control their weight, or manage side effects from cancer treatment therapies.
To make an appointment or for more information about the program, please visit Nutrition Program or call (617) 724-4000.
Pain is very common after treatment for cancer. It can be a side effect of prior therapy, including surgery or radiation. It can also be a sign of cancer return or a new problem unrelated to cancer.
Patients should report new or worsening pain to a member of their oncology care team or their primary care doctor. In addition to trying to figure out the cause of the pain, treatment of pain is important. The Mass General Pain Management Center can assist patients with chronic pain from cancer or cancer treatment and can work with your oncology team to find the best solution for pain management.
To make an appointment or for more information, please visit Center for Pain Medicine or Palliative Care
The Network Peer Matching Program is a one-to-one support program of the Mass General Cancer Center’s Network for Patients & Families. It offers patients and family members the opportunity to speak by telephone with Network members who have received cancer care at Mass General and become Network Peer Mentors to provide the unique support, understanding and hope of someone who is experienced in the cancer journey.
The Network Peer Matching Program is available to any patient or family member at Mass General who is currently facing a cancer diagnosis, navigating transitions into and through treatment, moving forward when treatment ends, or living with cancer as a chronic disease. Peer matches can be requested at any time and are made based on types of cancer, treatments, life stage and circumstances, and the primary concern of the individual requesting a peer match.
Learning you have a cancer diagnosis is often overwhelming for patients and family members. Going through testing, waiting for the treatment plan to be finalized, starting treatment, making decisions about options for treatment or transitioning to life after active treatment often challenge the individual’s ability to cope. It is essential to use your Cancer Center treatment team, including social workers for primary support. However, many persons report benefits from speaking with experienced patients and caregivers who know the cancer journey firsthand and are able to share how they made decisions, coped and developed resilience.
First, use your treatment team members for support and education as you receive a diagnosis, begin treatment, navigate changes in treatment or transition from active treatment. Remember that each Treatment Center includes a licensed clinical social worker who provides emotional support, counseling and advocacy as you move into and through treatment. If you think that talking with a peer would be additionally helpful, then speak with your medical providers and the social worker about making a referral to the Cancer Center’s Network Peer Matching Program.
You are welcome to directly contact the Network Peer Matching Program Coordinator, Paula Gauthier, LICSW at 617-643-1784 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to self-refer for a peer match.
You might also consider speaking with the social worker on your team about support groups at Mass General Cancer Center for peer support or request help in identifying support groups elsewhere in community settings. To make an appointment or for more information about the program, please call 617-643-1784 or email email@example.com. Patients and family members can be referred for a peer match by a member of their treatment team or request a match themselves.
There are other national organizations that provide peer to peer matching programs. You might consider exploring:
Peripheral Neuropathy is a result of damage to the nerves, usually leading to numbness, tingling, pain or loss of sensation. It often starts in fingers or toes. Peripheral Neuropathy can lead to difficulty with tasks requiring finger sensation like buttons, zippers, and typing. It can also lead to trouble with balance, walking, and pain in the feet, particularly at night.
Chemotherapy and other drugs are often a cause of Peripheral Neuropathy. Common drugs include: paclitaxel, docetaxel, vinorelbine, Eribulin, oxaliplatinum, cisplatin, and carboplatin. In addition, contributing factors can include: diabetes, hypothyroidism, alcohol abuse, vitamin deficiencies, cancer, and vascular disease. In evaluating the issue, your doctor may also check your thyroid profile, B12 and folate, perform a complete blood count and complete metabolic panel, check hemoglobin A1c for diabetes, or refer you for nerve studies.
There are several non-drug options for treatment including physical therapy and/or occupational therapy. These therapies can restore function and recondition muscles. Massage and exercise may also help. If needed physical therapy can provide assist devices and help with home and driving safety. Other options include acupuncture, cognitive-behavior modification, biofeedback, and nerve stimulation (TENS).
Some drugs developed for other causes can also treat neuropathy. Such as:
Please consult your oncology care team, primary care doctor or one of the teams below to determine the best treatment for you.
To make an appointment or for more information, there are several options.
Physical and occupational therapists can help you with exercise and conditioning and also help manage fatigue and lymphedema (swelling) that may develop from cancer treatments. The therapists are located at Mass General sites in Boston, Charlestown, Chelsea, Revere, and Waltham.
To make an appointment or for more information about the program, call 617-726-2961 or visit Physical Therapy
During the process of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, your primary care physician (PCP) can be an essential ally. At Mass General, we try to keep lines of communication open between your primary care specialist and your cancer team throughout this process.
During cancer diagnosis, your primary care team can help move things along as fast as possible, communicate results, and make a clear plan for further evaluation in Oncology. As the doctor who knows you best, your PCP can also be a sounding board for navigating and interpreting proposed treatment plans. During cancer treatment, your primary care team is available to you and to your Oncology team to help manage health issues separate from your cancer, support you emotionally, and help you navigate the system if necessary. After you complete your cancer treatment, or if you are on long-term cancer treatment, the role of your primary care doctor becomes even more central. Working as a team with your cancer specialists, your PCP will watch for side effects from the cancer and its treatment, including emotional difficulties which may appear after the first round of treatment is complete. He or she will also monitor for cancer recurrence and will continue to treat any other health issues and provide routine health maintenance to make sure that you stay as healthy as possible.
A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Your primary care doctor is a knowledgeable ally who can help you and your family navigate this new territory, while also keeping an essential eye on the whole of your health. After your treatment is complete or you enter a long-term treatment phase, your primary care doctor usually returns to being your point person in the medical system, so it is very important that you trust this person and feel that they understand your health and wellness goals and priorities.
If you do not already have a trusted primary care physician, please ask your Oncologist whether they can recommend someone.
If you do have a primary care doctor that you feel comfortable with, make sure that they are in communication with your Oncology team throughout your treatment. Be sure that you are seeing them at least once a year to keep your routine health maintenance up to date and for monitoring of any medical problems separate from your cancer.
It is often helpful to come to your primary care visits with some background information for your PCP. This questionnaire highlights some concerns people can experience as a result of cancer and its treatment and is a good starting point for discussions with your PCP.
Intake questionnaire to bring to PCP visit
To make an appointment with a new primary care doctor at Mass General, please see the primary care web page or call the referral service below. You can also ask your oncology team if they know a primary care doctor that they can refer you to at a location that is convenient for you.
Primary Care Physician Referral Service: 1-800-711-4644
Many primary care physicians at Mass General have expertise and interest in caring for patients with a history of cancer. We are working to build stronger ties between the Mass General primary care clinic and the Mass General Cancer Center through clinical care and research collaborations.
This effort is led by Dr. Alison McDonough and a team of primary care physicians throughout Mass General primary care practices.
Alison McDonough, MDClinical Director, Oncology Focused Primary Care Primary Care Associates, Mass General Waltham
Garret Chin, MDInternal Medicine Associates, Boston
Eileen Hession, MDPrimary Care Associates, Mass General Waltham
Barbara Holbert, MDMGH Downtown, Boston
Katharine Johnston, MD Women’s Health, Boston
Stephanie Eisenstat, MDWomen’s Health, Boston
Despite the often touted celebratory landmark of treatment completion, we know that there are unique physical, social, occupational/financial, and emotional challenges to the survivorship period. Survivorship is often characterized by feelings of distress, characterized by feelings of isolation, confusion, and worry. Indeed, following cancer therapy treatment completion and removal of treatment structure/support, reintegration is a significant stressor for both patients and caregivers. Cancer survivors may face difficult lasting physical and psychological complications secondary to cancer diagnosis and treatment; some of these predated their diagnosis, but some are a direct result of treatment. Cancer survivors and their families have a journey maneuvering and creating a pathway to their new lives.
To address these challenges and opportunities, we offer individual psychological services at the Mass General Cancer Centers in Boston and Waltham. We recently launched a mind-body skills based resiliency group treatment program for survivors. This is an 8-week program targeting the specific needs of patients transitioning off treatment.
To make an appointment or for more information call 617-726-5130 or visit here.
Cancer treatments are always improving but unfortunately many treatments used to fight cancer can impact future reproductive health and result in infertility.
Studies have shown that infertility has been found to be one of the most important consequences of cancer treatment among survivors who were diagnosed in childhood and during the reproductive years.
One of the fist questions to ask yourself is if having genetic or biological children is something that is of interest to you in the future. If the answer is yes or even maybe, it is important to have all of your questions addressed about how your treatments will impact future reproductive health. While the answer is not always known, your oncology team may be able to assist your or refer you to someone who will know.
Ask your oncology team questions about your treatments and if they will lower your fertility. You may also choose to contact a fertility specialist yourself. There are several available options that you could discuss including medications that may mitigate the impact of cancer treatments, sperm and oocyte freezing, embryo freezing and tissue freezing.
The Mass General Hospital Fertility Center Boston, MA 617-726-8868
The Clinic for Reproductive Health and Cancer Boston, MA 617-724-4800
The Mass General Hospital Fertility Center Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care Danvers, MA 978-882-6767
Sexuality and intimacy are important aspects of our lives, yet ones we do not really ever need to think about. However, with cancer and treatment, much of it changes and it is not uncommon for patients and their partners to feel confused about what has happened and why “things” are different. However, changes in your sexual life is a very common finding after cancer, and you are not alone. More importantly, there is help available. Sexual health changes can occur at any time after you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Being aware that things related to sexual health and intimacy can be impacted is important because the earlier you learn about it, the more proactive you can be to prevent symptoms and to help them get better.
Don’t be afraid to bring up any concerns you might have, now or in the future. Importantly, if you don’t feel comfortable bringing it up with your doctor, ask your nurse, nurse practitioner, or social worker. The Oncology Sexual Health clinic at Mass General aims to meet the needs for patients, especially if your providers feel they are at a loss to help.
For women, vaginal changes are common after treatment- especially pelvic surgery, ovarian removal, and from chemotherapy and pelvic radiation. Vaginal moisturizers (e.g., Replens, Luvena) can be used up to five times a week to help treat (and prevent) dryness. If you develop symptoms beyond dryness, including pain with penetrative sex, ask for help. For men, ask questions about how treatment will affect your sex life. Sometimes it may help to start medications like sildenafil immediately after surgery. Talk to your doctor about penile health and rehabilitation strategies.
The Oncology Sexual Health Clinic is open for all cancer patients, regardless of their cancer status whether it be on treatment, in remission, or living with disease. Ask your doctor about a referral.
For more information, please visit or call 617-724-4800
Oncology social workers are licensed mental health professionals who provide support for issues that affect you and your family during cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Each disease center has its own social workers with expertise in your specific disease. They can help you connect with various hospital and community resources, including assistance with finding transportation and temporary lodging.
To make an appointment or for more information about the program call 617-724-1822 or visit Mass General Social Work.
The Mass General Cancer Center Smokefree Support Service provides free, phone-based, one-on-one quit-smoking counseling for all Mass General Cancer Center patients. Our certified tobacco treatment counselors will help you set and reach your own health goals—whether that is cutting back how much you smoke, quitting completely, or staying smoke-free after quitting.
To make an appointment or for more information, visit the Smokefree Support Service website.
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