When Reading resident Kim Sims visited the emergency room at MelroseWakefield Hospital in May 2017 for some cardiac issues she was having, she never anticipated the call she would have with her primary care physician the next day.

Kim Sims’ doctor told her that her chest X-ray revealed that she had lung cancer. “I stopped hearing everything else he was saying after that,” said Kim. “When you hear those words, you immediately think that you’ve received a death sentence. We all live in fear of a cancer diagnosis, and we all know someone who has been touched by it.”

Although Kim was still in a bit of shock, a treatment plan was already being put in place across a team of providers. Her doctor reassured her that her lung cancer was treatable.

Kim was referred to Laurence Brinckerhoff, MD, chief of thoracic surgery at Tufts Medical Center, who was seeing patients locally at the Tufts Medical Center Cancer Center on Montvale Avenue in Stoneham. Dr. Brinckerhoff and his team are part of the Comprehensive Thoracic Program that provides patients with high-quality multidisciplinary care for lung cancer and other thoracic diseases in the convenience of their communities, either at Tufts Medical Center, Lowell General Hospital, MelroseWakefield Hospital, Lawrence Memorial Hospital or the cancer center in Stoneham. These partners are members of Wellforce, working together to bring highly specialized care close to home.

Care, comfort and expertise

Kim, a surgical technician at MelroseWakefield Hospital for the past 30 years, was not used to being in the role of a patient and was humbled by the levels of support and compassion she received. “I am usually the one being strong for my patients as well as my family,” she said. “Receiving the level of care and comfort I received was amazing. I was at my most vulnerable, and they got me believing that I could beat this.”

After meeting with Dr. Brinckerhoff, Kim was able to have a chest CT scan and a pulmonary test locally. The tests revealed a tumor on her lung of about 3 cm. “We caught it early,” she said. I had not shown any symptoms. There were some guardian angels looking over me.”

For Kim, the time between diagnosis and surgery was eight weeks. In August 2017, Dr. Brinckerhoff removed the tumor from her lung at Tufts Medical Center. Since then, Kim has received all of her follow-up appointments locally at the Stoneham cancer center. She was declared cancer free two weeks after her surgery.

“It was incredible to have this team of medical professionals pulling together from throughout our system to provide such amazing coordinated care. I really felt that this whole team was on the journey with me. I feel very blessed for I was one of the fortunate ones.”

Lung cancer is a very treatable cancer when caught early

Speak with your primary care provider to see if you are a candidate for a screening using low-dose CT scan.

Screening criteria include:

  • have a history of heavy smoking
  • smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years
  • are between 55 and 77 years old

Heavy smoking means a smoking history of 30 pack years or more. A pack year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. For example, a person could have a 30 pack-year history by smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

Medicare and most private insurance plans cover the cost for eligible patients who are considered high risk. Check with your insurance provider to make sure that screening is covered.

For more information about the Comprehensive Thoracic Program visit tuftsmedicalcenter.org/thoracic.