Inspired by a Chicago firefighter who has pushed hard for his fellow first responders to be screened for lung cancer, this weekend will see the launch of a special series of screenings for firefighters.
Bill Nolan, a retired Chicago firefighter who has battled cancer in both of his lungs, has long spoken about the importance of screenings for those brave men and women who battle fires to keep the community safe.
“If one guy goes to the doctor and gets testing and saves his life and helps him out, it would be worthwhile,” he said.
Pat Cleary, the vice president of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, was inspired by Nolan’s message.
“I just thought ‘wow, that’s a great idea,’” he said. “Maybe we should do that for the rest of the firefighters in Chicago. So I reached out to Dr. (Christopher) Seder and he responded.”
That phone call led the union to team up with Rush University Medical Center to hold lung cancer screening and health fairs, with the first one set for this Saturday.
“These endeavors in Chicago (are) exactly what we need to be doing,” Ed Kelly, general president of the International Association of Firefighters, said. “Unfortunately as firefighters, we need our screenings, at a much younger age than what most health care plans will allow these screenings to be performed at.”
Specific criteria must be met for an annual low-dose CT scan to be covered by insurance companies, and must include a history of smoking.
CFD Union Local 2 will instead pick up the cost for firefighters who don’t meet that criteria if they schedule a screening during a health fair.
“We’re going to do it throughout the year,” Cleary said. “I’ve signed up and I’ve recommended that everyone else do too.”
Firefighters see a 60% increase in their chances of being diagnosed with lung cancer, according to studies. Health experts say that firefighters should be screened for lung cancer yearly.
Rush University’s Dr. Nicole Geissen says that early detection can make all the difference.
“We know that if we can detect lung cancer in the early stages, say Stage 1 or 2, then the survival rate and disease-free interval is much better than late stage cancer,” the thoracic surgeon said.
According to officials, there are still spots open for Saturday’s health fair, but Rush is asking that firefighters call 312-947-LUNG (5864) to schedule their screenings.