Lung cancer screenings for firefighters

Written by  Facing Cancer Together
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(Mount Joy) -- More than fifteen years ago, scores of firefighters from Central Pennsylvania helped put out a fire at the PennDOT headquarters in Harrisburg. Later, they'd find out they were exposed to asbestos and other substances that could lead to lung cancer.

lung-screening-firefightersBruce Henry of Mount Joy, Lancaster County was one of those firefighters. He's recently taken part in a new lung cancer screening program spearheaded by PinnacleHealth for firefighters who responded to the PennDOT fire or to the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.

As part of witf's multimedia Facing Cancer Together intiative, Henry spoke with Megan Lello to discuss the free screening process:

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Firefighters across the state are routinely exposed to cancer-causing chemicals while they perform their duties.  A law enacted this year is designed to recognize that fact and give firefighters and their families more peace of mind if a first responder is diagnosed with cancer.

Click here to listen to a conversation with witf's Craig Layne and Don Konkle of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute about why cancer is such a danger to firefighters.

Aside from the many chemicals and toxins a firefighter faces during a fire, exposure to diesel carcinogens from starting up fire engines inside the firehouses also increases risk for cancer.  This is now recognized as a hazard and improvements have been made, but unfortunately, many have been facing the side-effects of this exposure.

Konkle says that the old law forced a firefighter who was diagnosed with cancer to pinpoint the exact fire that caused the disease.  The new law recognizes that it may be the compounded effect of fighting many fires over the course of a career that may cause cancer.  The law will ensure that those firefighters diagnosed with cancer will receive workman's compensation and protection that will allow them to maintain a quality of life throughout treatment.  Konkle says that it's unfair to ask firefighters to protect the community without offering them the protection they need if they are diagnosed with cancer.

Read more about House Bill 797,  authored by Rep. Frank Farry (R-Bucks) that designates cancer as an occupational disease for firefighters.

Farry who, at one time, was a volunteer firefighter himself, said, “Pennsylvania’s volunteer and career firefighters sacrifice a great deal to protect our lives and property.  If they develop the horrible disease of cancer as a result of that service they deserve our support and proper protection. My legislation ensures they will receive it.”

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