Caring for the Whole Person in Breast Cancer Treatment

October 17, 2016

Burlington, MA – Over the past few decades the treatment of cancer has advanced exponentially. And while the medical field continues to improve its methods for early diagnosis and treatment, hospitals and health systems are increasingly emphasizing treatment of not just the disease, but of the whole patient.

Cancer centers now focus on nutrition and physical therapy before and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. As studies have shown, the healthier a patient is, the better their outcome.

But at one local hospital system they are also focusing on the psychological and social health of patients.

“We’re trying to provide a more complete approach,” said Cary Meyer, PsyD, a behavioral oncologist with the Comprehensive Breast Health Center at Lahey who focuses on breast cancer patients. “The goal is to attend to all of a patient’s needs in an integrated fashion.” 

The Comprehensive Breast Health Center takes a “multidisciplinary” or team approach to care.  Surgical, medical and radiation oncologists work closely with psychologists, nutritionists, social workers, physical therapists and pharmacists who all specialize in cancer care.

While Dr. Meyer consults with the many women diagnosed with breast cancer, he often works with patients who are considering having a risk-reducing mastectomy. This type of procedure has been made more popular in recent years by movie stars Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate.

For women considering this procedure, Dr. Meyer conducts an assessment to determine their understanding and questions about their diagnosis and treatment options, as well as any “psychosocial” supports the team can provide.  Additionally, he works with patients and the hospital genetic counselors to assist in the decision-making process. They discuss options, expected outcomes and what impact the surgery could have on their lives. He also provides women, their spouses and families with supportive care and counseling.

“Because of our improved abilities in assessing a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer based on family history and genetic testing, we can often identify women who are at much higher risk for breast cancer,” said Dr. Meyer who sees patients at both Lahey and Beverly Hospitals. “For example, we know that certain women may have up to an 80 percent lifetime risk of getting breast cancer, so for them it might make sense to consider the surgery.”

Just being diagnosed with cancer is traumatic enough for most people, but for women to then weigh the option of having a mastectomy, that’s where Dr. Meyer can come in. He has been working with cancer patients across the Lahey Health system for over two years, and for many women, talking through the decision-making process has helped the most.

“It’s normal for people in complex and stressful situations, like receiving a cancer diagnosis, to make quick decisions,” said Dr. Meyer. “We often have the impulse to get a decision out of the way and move forward in the hope of reducing our discomfort. Slowing down the decision-making process is important and often times, very helpful.”

But Dr. Meyer is quick to point out; it’s ultimately the patient’s decision. He’s there for support and counsel.

“When we work with patients about the decision-making process, we are careful to take a neutral stance. Our goal is to help them make the decision that’s best for them,” he said.

About Lahey Health

The Comprehensive Breast Health Center and the Lahey Health Cancer Institute are part of the Lahey Health network of hospitals and clinics.  Dr. Meyer is a Behavioral Oncologist with LHCI and is a licensed clinical psychologist.

Lahey Health is what's next in health care, providing a full continuum of integrated health services close to where you live or work. It is comprised of nationally recognized, award-winning hospitals—including an academic hospital and medical center, and community hospitals—primary care providers, specialist physicians, behavioral health services, post-acute programs such as home health services, skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities, and senior care resources located throughout northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. 

Lahey Health offers nearly 1,400 locally based physicians providing clinical excellence and an exceptional patient experience in adult and pediatric primary care and every medical specialty, including kidney and liver transplantation; cancer, cardiovascular and orthopedic medical and surgical care; local emergency and trauma care; urological surgery; chronic disease prevention and health management; and pediatric emergency, newborn and inpatient care provided in collaboration with Boston Children's Hospital physicians. 

Lahey Health includes Lahey Hospital & Medical Center—a teaching hospital of Tufts University School of Medicine—and Lahey Clinic physician group with practices in Burlington, Peabody and other locations throughout northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire; Beverly Hospital; Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, Mass.; Winchester Hospital; Lahey Health Senior Care and Lahey Health Behavioral Services as well as more than 30 primary care physician practices and multiple outpatient and satellite specialty care facilities. 

Together, we are making innovative, integrated healthcare more personal and more accessible. For more information, visit and its member websites Lahey Hospital & Medical CenterBeverly Hospital, and Lahey Health Behavioral Services


# # #



Dan Marra
Lahey Health Media Relations