MANCHESTER, N.H. – Representatives from Dartmouth Health, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the City of Manchester and various organizations representing firefighters gathered at Manchester Fire Department Station 8 on Monday morning to celebrate a new partnership that is taking aim at cancer prevention among firefighters.
Through the initiative free skin cancer screenings will be available for all active Manchester firefighters as well as free lung CT scan for firefighters over the age of 40 years old with at least 10 years of service.
Manchester Fire Department Chief Ryan Cashin said that firefighters are far more likely than individuals in the general population to suffer from some sort of cancer, with 66 percent of all fallen firefighters dying due to cancer. He added that new forms of building materials have only increased that risk for firefighters.
“Even after the fire is out, the empirical data that has been collected is incontestable: firefighters are more susceptible to cancer. The question is: what are we doing to do about it?” said Cashin. “Regardless of the immediate risk of their lives while running into burning buildings or the long-term risk of cancer, your firefighters will never hesitate to do their job to save lives. This is more than what we do, this is who we are.”
Speakers for Dartmouth and Anthem saw the move as a way to serve the community.
“They support us, they support our families and they support our communities,” said Maria Proulx, president, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire. “It’s time for us for us to support them and this is one way we can do that.”
The initiative is the first of its kind in New Hampshire with Cashin calling it a good first step, and there was praise for pending legislation that would automatically assume any firefighter that is diagnosed with cancer will be automatically eligible for workplace compensation. However, Cashin and others said that more needs to be done, whether it’s free mammograms for veteran female firefighters, free colonoscopies to check for colon cancer or blood tests, as well as the expansion of the free screenings for all firefighters across the Granite State.
“Dartmouth Health is proud to partner with the City of Manchester and Anthem to provide cancer screenings for firefighters in the Manchester Fire Department,” said Todd A. Noce, DO, regional medical director of radiology, Dartmouth Hitchcock Clinics Southern Region. “Part of our mission is to care for patients and communities beyond the walls of our hospitals and clinics. We are indebted to our local firefighters who help when we are at our most vulnerable and we look forward to keeping them healthy for many years to come.”
Statewide, there are approximately 200 Granite State firefighters who currently qualify for cancer screenings and another 100 retirees who qualify as well. The goal of this partnership is to encourage other fire departments in New Hampshire to follow the model in Manchester, and eventually spur requirements for cancer screenings for firefighters at the state level.
“Let’s work together to keep firefighters in service to they can do what they are designed to do, which is save lives,” said Cashin.