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January 7, 2014

Lahey takes cancer screenings downtown

Targeting the mortality rate of lung cancer patients and promoting early detection, Addison Gilbert Hospital and Beverly Hospital — both part of Northeast Health System and its parent Lahey Health — are offering assessments and scans for those who qualify, free of charge.

And in an expanded outreach effort, they’re hosting those assessment sessions this week at the Gloucester Police Station, launching the project Monday and hosting another Thursday in the GPD conference room from 7:30 to 10 a.m. and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. No appointment is necessary.

The process — from screening assessment to the low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan to a radiologist’s services — is free.

Dr. Augustine “Austin” O’Keeffe, chief of radiology for Northeast, said the cooperative effort from radiologists and Northeast Health Systems is rooted in basic service.

“We think it’s the right thing do for our community,” he said.

Anyone between the ages of 50 and 74 who has smoked at least an average of one pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years may qualify for the screening. From there, a radiologist would analyze the scan to see if there are any signs of lung cancer.

One of the first steps is identifying lung nodules or looking for lung infections, O’Keeffe said. O’Keeffe, who operates primarily out of Beverly Hospital but also works at Addison Gilbert, said nodules — the spots that show up on scans — are usually benign but can be malignant.

“It can be an early cancer or precursor of cancer,” he said.

Nodules show up as a lighter area on a dark background of lung tissue on an LDCT scan, he said.

At Monday’s police station session, the first step called for AGH staffers to determine whether a patient could qualify for an LDCT scan.

If a person was considered a high risk for lung cancer and met qualifications set by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, he or she would then be scheduled for an LDCT scan.

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