Firefighters offered ultrasound screenings for cancer and heart disease

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Firefighters have a 9% greater chance of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% greater chance of dying from it compared to the general population according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.  That’s why the union that represents Rochester Firefighters has started a new program that brings cancer and cardiovascular screenings directly to its members. 

Doug King has been on the job as a Rochester Firefighter for 28 years, “As time passes by, your own mortality kinda looks you in the face a little more and you realize what you’ve been exposed to over the years,” he tells News10NBC.  King is a member of the HAZMAT team, but worries more about the younger firefighters, “The guys and gals on the line on a regular basis, they’re the first ones maybe to respond to those scenes so, they could be potentially exposed without even knowing it,” he says.

That’s why when King got an email from his union saying it was going to offer free ultrasound cancer and cardiovascular screenings, he scheduled his appointment right away and encouraged other firefighters to do the same. 

“I had a son this past year, so I’m kind of thinking of others too, besides myself,” says RFD firefighter Ben Dewey who has been on the job for about eight years, “I’m not sure if I noticed an email come through before, but with recent events in the department, we lost one of our guys, it kinda made everyone more aware.”

That’s what inspired IAFF 1071 President Eddie Santiago to bring this screening opportunity directly to the union hall for the next few weeks, “Us having the understanding of how prominent cancer is in our profession, we wanted to be proactive,” he says, “You understand the inherent risk, you’re putting your life on the line to serve the community, with that said… we don’t pick up on the after effects of firefighting and this is one of them.”

The exam takes about 20 minutes and screens for a number of cancers and heart issues, “They get called by a nurse practitioner and they go over all the results and then depending on what they find, then you take that to your primary care doctor and look to see if there is any more treatment that needs to be done,” Santiago says.

This is the first time the Union has brought these health screenings directly to firefighters and because the firefighters essentially co-op their insurance with Rochester Police Officers and other City Employees, the screenings were extended to them as well.