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Patient Stories

Striking Out Cancer Through Teamwork
By NSMC Giving 2008 Spring

Jennifer Flanagan, a vibrant 55-year-old from Marblehead, is one of thousands of NSMC patients who have benefited from the NSMC Cancer Center close collaboration with the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center. Last summer, physicians from both institutions treated Flanagan for an aggressive form of gynecologic cancer. Flanagan, who was diagnosed following a biopsy at NSMC Salem Hospital, received the news about her cancer on a Friday. By the end of that day, she had an appointment the following week at the MGH Cancer Center with gynecological oncologist Linda Duska, M.D. who also sees patients at NSMC. “Knowing that I would be seen so quickly was a tremendous relief during what was otherwise a very long weekend,” says Flanagan.

Though treatable, Flanagan’s cancer was complex. Surgery was not an option. Instead, explained Dr. Duska, Flanagan’s care would require the expertise of a multi-disciplinary team of specialists at both NSMC and MGH. Under the direction of the NSMC Cancer Center’s James McIntyre, M.D., Chair of Radiation Oncology at NSMC and a radiation oncologist on staff at MGH, Flanagan began five weeks of treatment that involved daily radiation coupled with weekly chemotherapy. In addition, Flanagan received a series of five brachytherapy treatments—a minimally invasive technique that uses implantable radioactive “seeds” to deliver radiation directly to tumors—at MGH under the care of Anthony Russell, M.D.

Flanagan says her multi-disciplinary, multi-location treatment was "seamless.” “The coordination was unbelievable. It made going through treatment a lot easier,” she says. “Everyone I met knew me and knew exactly what was supposed to happen. I never felt alone.” Since finishing her treatment last fall, Flanagan has resumed her previously active lifestyle. “We all have ideas about how we want health care to be,” says Flanagan. “NSMC actually delivers.”