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A conversation with Joe Hutchinson

The son of Fred Hutchinson shares his memories of his dad and his uncle, Bill, who founded the cancer center in his brother's memory

Oct. 23, 2014 | By Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

The first thing I noticed about Joe Hutchinson is how much he looks like his father. He’s got the same rough-cut facial features and powerful jaw his father wore to every baseball game he played or managed.

However, the thing I learned about Joe when he recently visited the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center campus is how much of an impact his Uncle Bill Hutchinson, founder of the Fred Hutch, had on Joe.

Watch his video interview with my colleague, Linda Dahlstrom, to see what Joe says about the death of his father and his uncle’s response to that tragedy.

Joe Hutchinson shares his memory of his dad, Fred, the baseball player and namesake of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

‘I have the chance to fight back’: Choosing a preventive double mastectomy

How one BRCA1-positive woman decided to have both breasts removed to lower her risk of breast cancer

Oct. 22, 2014 | By Dr. Rachel Tompa / Fred Hutch News Service

Justine Avery Sands opted for a preventive double mastectomy to reduce her inherited risk for breast cancer

Two years ago, Justine Avery Sands decided to have her breasts removed in a surgery known as preventive double mastectomy, a choice prompted by her family history of breast cancer.

One of Justine Avery Sands’ first memories was of driving to the hospital with her mother.

“She was a very open woman. She didn’t believe in lying,” said Sands, a 34-year-old Seattle sales executive. So when Sands asked, her mom told the 4-year-old exactly where they were going: to see a doctor about a lump her mother had found in her breast.

“I told her, ‘Maybe it is that Froot Loop I gave you earlier,’” Sands remembered. “She laughed and said, ‘I hope so!’”

That day was the beginning of Sands’ journey with cancer. Five years later, her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 43, when Sands was 9 years old. A few years after that, Sands’ aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went into remission but later died of ovarian cancer. Then a cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer at 34.

Two years ago, Sands decided to have her own breasts removed in a surgery known as prophylactic, or preventive, double mastectomy – a choice prompted by the reasons behind her family’s history of breast cancer. Her cousin’s doctor recommended genetic testing, and many of her other relatives decided to get tested too. It turned out that the family harbors a mutation in the BRCA1 gene that dramatically raises the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Sands, fresh out of college, delayed her genetic testing for several more years.

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When a cold can kill: Cancer, transplant patients at risk from ordinary viral infections

Flu shots, hand hygiene and a healthy fear of public germs can help keep them safe during recovery, experts say

Oct. 21, 2014 | By JoNel Aleccia / Fred Hutch News Service

Bridget Clawson

Bridget Clawson survived the rigors of breast cancer treatment only to nearly succumb to viral pneumonia.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

When Bridget Clawson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, she naturally assumed that that was the disease she had to beat.

So when she survived a partial mastectomy, nearly a year of chemotherapy and weeks of radiation – only to wind up in a hospital emergency room with a case of viral pneumonia that almost killed her, the 59-year-old Edmonds, Washington, woman couldn’t quite believe it.

“I realized, oh my goodness, I could have died,” she recalled. “It was a shock that it could be anything else other than my cancer treatment.”

What Clawson didn’t know then – like most cancer patients and those who’ve just had stem cell transplants – is that ordinary viral infections can pose an extraordinary risk to people with compromised immune systems.

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Why the flu hit hardest in middle-aged adults last year

Previous influenza infections in childhood may be the culprit, study finds

Oct. 20, 2014 | By Dr. Rachel Tompa / Fred Hutch News Service

The flu hit hardest in middle-aged adults last year

Only 37 percent of adults aged 18-64 got a flu shot last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

Last year’s flu season was particularly brutal, and a surprising population was hit the hardest: young and middle-aged adults. New research suggests that an immune response unique to this age group may be to blame for last year’s flu toll and points to possible improvements to the annual vaccine.

That poor immune response was shaped by the flu strains that people born before 1985 were exposed to in childhood, according to new work led by researchers at The Wistar Institute that involved investigators from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and elsewhere.

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To BSE or not to BSE?

What you need to know about breast self-exam and self-awareness

Oct. 20, 2014 | By Diane Mapes / Fred Hutch News Service

A video produced by the Scottish government encourages women to get breast cancer screening and know their breasts.

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the airwaves and Internet are swirling with information on mammograms, and the benefits of early detection and screening.

But where does the humble breast self-exam fit into this picture? Should women still perform BSEs on themselves? Or do we put all of our “eggs” – if you’ll pardon the expression -- in one breast-screening basket?

“Mammogram is just one piece of the whole screening process,” said Dr. Julie Gralow, a clinical researcher and breast cancer oncologist with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and its treatment arm, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. “Screening involves visual inspection and breast self-awareness and knowing what’s normal for you.”

Heidi Trott, a nurse practitioner and three-time breast cancer survivor who counsels newly diagnosed patients, said SCCA encourages breast self-exam but that breast self-awareness is even better.

“I use the term awareness rather than examination,” she said. “It’s important to inspect the breast, to look at it in the mirror, to get a sense of what your breast tissue feels like.”

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The conversation: When talking about death means talking about life

Dr. Tony Back, featured in an upcoming documentary, teaches doctors to talk to their patients about end of life

Oct. 17, 2014 | By Mary Engel / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Tony Back

Dr. Tony Back, a medical oncologist at Fred Hutch and the University of Washington, is featured in the documentary "Consider the Conversation 2: Stories About Cure, Relief and Comfort." He leads workshops around the country on talking to dying patients.

Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Anthony Back remembers precisely the moment he resolved to help fellow doctors learn to talk with their patients—and each other—about dying.

He was a young oncology fellow doing hospital rounds with a group of doctors in training when they came to an empty bed. The attending physician asked a resident what happened to the patient who had been there the day before.

“Oh, she died last night,” the resident said dismissively, then walked on, rounding the corner out of sight.

The group fell silent. Although her death was unexpected, no one wanted to talk about it.

“I thought, wow, this is really awkward,” Back recalled. “That’s how I got interested in the whole issue.”

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