Economic Backbone: Cancer Care
A Tampa General Hospital oncologist takes holistic approach to treating breast cancer
Oncologist Dr. Jamie McKenzie is well-versed in treating breast cancer, but she says battling cancer cells is only part of her job at Tampa General Hospital. McKenzie, who joined the hospital’s TGH Cancer Institute last summer, talks about her holistic approach to the disease.
Life During Treatment: “I'm often treating women who are younger and are moms and working moms who are juggling a lot of different aspects of life, in addition to the cancer, and those things don’t stop after a cancer diagnosis. So I think it’s crucial to meet them where they are and not just give them an excellent outcome. Thankfully, we’re doing better and better every year in treating breast cancer, but we also have to help them continue on with their lives during treatment.”
Efficient Care: “My goal for breast cancer patients is that they kind of flow through the system as seamlessly as possible. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to a cancer diagnosis, especially breast cancer, where patients are meeting a number of new faces and clinicians, from the surgeon to myself to the radiation oncologist and countless others. Ideally, the patient will meet with all of us at the same time, rather than having to take time out of their day, day after day, strung out over weeks and months. They should know right upfront what the big picture will be.”
Mental Health: “In this day and age, I don’t know anybody that’s not at a higher stress level than normal, even before a cancer diagnosis. We have social workers who will partner with us and patients to address any kind of needs that come up. Psychologists are definitely an important part of helping patients. Anyone who does this work, whether it’s myself or the excellent chemo nurses we have who spend sometimes hours with a patient when they’re here getting treatments, are pretty well attuned to the issues that come up and can talk about them.”
Keep Moving: “One of the other things I’m a big proponent of is having the patients be as functional physically as they were before the diagnosis, and I think that’s a big aspect of cancer care that has not been focused on. I’m particularly interested in having physical therapists work closely with patients. Unfortunately, there are some patients that by the time they get through this journey are not the same person and have functional decline that, if you don’t pay attention to it early enough, it can become irreversible. One goal is keeping them active. The more active you are, the better your outcome.”
Optimism: “I feel lucky to be an oncologist right now compared to 20 to 30 years ago when outcomes were not quite as good and the treatments were much more limited and the side effects of most of those treatments were much worse. I’ve been lucky to have things like immunotherapy and targeted therapy at my disposal. Every day, it seems that there are news articles and publications about newly approved therapies, and new drugs are approved.”