How One Doctor Is Changing the Face of Breast Cancer Care at the Mass General Cancer Center
Amy Comander knew from an early age that she would be a doctor someday. While other kids were set on becoming astronauts or sports stars, Comander sat at the dinner table eagerly listening to stories told by her father, an internal medicine specialist, about his most interesting medical cases while she dreamed of meeting patients herself. As a medical student, she discovered her passion for oncology because it allowed physicians to form strong bonds with their patients. Comander is now an oncologist specializing in the care of women with breast cancer.
“Oncology is a fascinating field for somebody who’s really passionate about science and the latest therapies, but also loves the amazing close bonds that one can form with patients to help them through their journey,” says Dr. Comander.
That passion for caring for cancer patients launched Dr. Comander to her new role as co-director of the , and director of breast oncology and survivorship at the at Waltham and at . “Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is one of the scariest things a woman can experience,” she says. “Our key goal is to provide personalized, comprehensive, top-notch care for patients with breast cancer in our community,” she says.
Comander says the comprehensive care encompasses every part of the patient journey, from screening and diagnosis to genetic counseling and treatment plans. No matter what step you or your loved one may be on, she says the Mass General Cancer Center has a service or program designed for each type of breast cancer patient. Here are four she says that set the Cancer Center apart:
Promoting the health and wellbeing of patients who have completed cancer treatment is often overlooked, Dr. Comander says, and the Mind Body Program aims to change that. She says the goal of this cancer survivorship program is to reduce the impact of stress and build resilience through guided exercises like meditation and creative self-expression.
“It’s an excellent program that helps patients develop strategies to deal with stress and other emotional factors that are faced by cancer survivors,” says Dr. Comander.
Mass General Cancer Center’s personalized care really shines in the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic, where patients may be referred to receive a fitness, nutrition, and rehab prescription. Dr. Comander says recommendations are also shared through the multidisciplinary care team of oncologists, physical therapists, and other clinicians so patients receive the best comprehensive treatment possible. Dr. Comander has recently started a 12-week program for breast cancer survivors that is also based on the principles of Lifestyle Medicine. She even ran the Bostont Marathon to raise money for this program and plans on running it again next year.
This breakthrough breast cancer screening technology focuses on the two major mammography concerns: missed cancers and false positives. Thanks to the high-resolution images captured by the scan, Dr. Comander says doctors can better visualize breast tissue and detect invasive cancers. She recommends that women, especially at age 40 and beyond, proceed with annual mammography to be proactive about their health.
“An annual breast cancer screening is so important for women so that we can identify and diagnose breast cancer when it’s very small and at an early stage,” she says.
Helping women maintain their dignity by reducing the damaging effects of cancer drugs on women’s hair is the goal of this revolutionary new technology. Dr. Comander notes that scalp cooling has helped many of her female patients preserve their hair and continue living their life to the fullest.
“This is a real game-changer for women,” she says. “Many women don’t want to be public about their breast cancer diagnosis, and this technology is helping them keep their dignity and privacy.”
Comander says that these services and more, available across multiple locations, allows her and her colleagues to cross new frontiers in breast cancer care and give their patients the best possible outcomes. “At the Mass General Cancer Center, women diagnosed with breast cancer are going to just feel so well cared for and know that they have a team ready to focus on their cancer. We will be by their side every step of the way.”
Dr. Comander emphasizes that coordinated breast cancer care is available in Boston, Waltham, and Newton, and she’s excited to guide the Mass General Cancer Center into the future of breast cancer care, with the focus always on patients. She said it’s what drove her to oncology in the first place, and what will continue to drive her forward.