WORCESTER, Mass. - Nearly 200 Massachusetts firefighters were able to receive free cancer screenings at Polar Park Tuesday.
This is the second year UMass Chan Medical School students teamed up with DetecTogether and UMass Memorial Health to educate the first responders about their cancer risks and provide free screenings.
Firefighters have a 14% greater risk of cancer than the general public due to on-the-job hazards. They're are exposed to cancer-causing carcinogens and their cancer is frequently detected late, when it's harder to treat and less survivable.
DetecTogether is a national education and advocacy organization trying to save lives by teaching people how to detect cancer early.
"We all have a 40% lifetime risk of developing cancer, firefighters risk is 9% higher and they are 14% more likely to die because of their on the job exposures and what they do as part of their everyday work,” DetecTogether President and Executive Director Tricia Laursen said.
“So they are our nation's heroes, they are our local heroes. We can help save their lives, we can help reduce deaths in the fire service through early detection and that's what this day is all about.”
"I had my screening done and they asked if I had any concerns or questions,” Worcester firefighter Ryan Kelley said. “And my only concern was this scab that had been there for about two years and they looked at it and they said it looks to be a tumor. We need to get it biopsied, check it out, and see what it is.
"They biopsied it the following day, and about a month later they removed it and I have been cancer free and all good ever sense. Had they not run this event, I would not have gone out seeking for a skin screening or looking to see if I had any kind of skin cancer. The whole reason why it was found is because they offered this free screening to us."
Firefighters were screened for skin cancer, head and neck cancers and received eligibility counseling for colonoscopies. Free chest CT scans and blood tests were also available, along with blood pressure checks.