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Advancing Cancer Care: How This Boston Oncologist Treats Patients With Medical Prestige—And a Holistic Mindset

Dr. Amy Comander, medical director of the Mass General Cancer Center in Waltham, director of breast oncology at the Mass General Cancer Center at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and director of lifestyle medicine at Mass General Cancer Center, shares how she cares for the whole patient. 

How does the Mass General Cancer Center network collaborate?

My colleagues and I work within the whole system to provide the best care. I am fortunate to see patients at two of our community locations, Waltham and Newton-Wellesley Hospital. My patients appreciate the comprehensive care they can receive close to home, as well as having access to very specialized care in Boston as needed. 

Mass General Cancer Center is a leader in oncology clinical trials and offers access to many of those trials at its community locations. Can you share why that’s important?

Clinical trials may be a patient’s best treatment option, so making trials more accessible to our patients is a key priority. Receiving treatment for cancer can be very overwhelming and involves numerous appointments for medical visits, lab draws, imaging studies, and more. Patients who live in Waltham can drive five minutes to the Mass General Cancer Center in Waltham and have access to both cutting-edge cancer care and innovative clinical trials. Being able to access cutting-edge care close to home, rather than driving downtown, can make a big difference for those undergoing cancer treatment. 

You direct the Lifestyle Medicine Program at the Mass General Cancer Center. What does that program entail?

Lifestyle medicine is a specialty that focuses on the role of evidence-based lifestyle interventions to treat chronic disease and improve health and well-being. Tools from lifestyle medicine are a key component of cancer survivorship care. The six pillars of lifestyle medicine include: physical activity, healthful nutrition, restorative sleep, avoiding use of risky substances, stress resilience, and the importance of social connection. In the Lifestyle Medicine clinic, we provide patients with an individualized consultation to focus on each of these pillars, and we refer them to the wide array of supportive care programs at Mass General Cancer Center—which may focus on stress management and resiliency, sexual health, physical activity, and more. Our program also offers group visits for cancer patients in order to help them make these lifestyle changes. 

Your care for breast cancer patients doesn’t stop when they complete primary treatment. Why are you so passionate about caring for survivors?

After completing primary treatment, our patients are often left facing numerous acute and long-term side effects from treatment—such as fatigue, joint pain, hot flashes, sexual health concerns, weight gain, psychological concerns, and more. We established the Paving the Path to Wellness program at Mass General Cancer Center, a 12-week survivorship program in a supportive group setting, to help survivors improve their health and well-being during and after a breast cancer diagnosis. Our breast cancer survivors derive great benefit from learning these evidence-based tools; in fact, they prefer to refer to themselves as breast cancer “thrivers!” 

Visit massgeneral.org/cancer to learn more about Mass General Cancer Center.