Due to our occupation as firefighters, we are more than twice as likely as the general public to acquire certain types of cancers. Amendments to the Workers Compensation Act have been introduced to recognize the following cancers as diseases that can arise where a worker is employed full-time as a firefighter and has been regularly exposed to the hazards of a fire scene, over certain periods of time.
The cancers recognized by WorkSafe BC as being linked to firefighting are:
Primary site brain cancer Employed for at least 10 years.
Primary site bladder cancer Employed for at least 15 years.
Primary site kidney cancer Employed for at least 20 years.
Primary non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma Employed for at least 20 years.
Primary leukemia Employed for at least five years.
Primary site colorectal cancer Employed for at least 20 years.
Primary site ureter cancer Employed for at least 15 years.
The following are recommendations for firefighter medicals.
It is recommended that firefighters have a medical evaluation based on years of service:
1 to 10 years of service once every 5 years
11 to 15 years of service once every 3 years
16 plus years of service once every year
* All firefighters over 40 years of age* once every year
Colorectal cancer screening:
It is recommended that all firefighters be given a colonoscopy at the age of 40, and once every 5 years thereafter. If there are any symptoms of bleeding or a change in bowel habits, it is recommended that a colonoscopy be performed at any age. In addition, firefighters should be screened for colorectal cancer once every 3 years under the age of 44 and once a year after the age of 45.
(See letter by Dr. Hartley S. Stern)
Colorectal cancer screening update:
Dr. K. Atkinson, a Gastroenterologist and Chief of Medicine at Royal Columbian hospital, has received several requests from firefighters and their GP’s for colon cancer screening. The Medical services plan has notified them that these requests do not meet their guidelines and therefore will not cover this service. MSP has a task force on screening and will only cover those with a family History, even though WorkSafe BC has presumptive legislation for Primary site colorectal cancer for firefighters employed for at least 20 years. We are currently working on a recommendation to the City and WorkSafe BC to pay for this type of cancer screening. In the interim, we suggest talking with your Doctor if you have signs and symptoms and/or family history.
For more info click on this link: Colorectal cancer
It is recommended that firefighters are screened for prostate specific antigen (PSA). For firefighters 44 years of age and under, it is recommended that they are screened once every three years. For firefighters 45 years of age and older, they should be screened on an annual basis. Currently our Extended health benefits only cover this test if you are 45 years or older, payable to a maximum of $35.00.
Other recommended cancer screening:
Skin cancer: regular skin exams should be performed during annual physicals.
Testicular cancer: some studies have shown that firefighters are 4 times as likely to get testicular cancer as the general population.
Bladder Cancer: if available, Matritech's NMP22(R) BladderChek(R) can be used to detect a bladder cancer nuclear matrix protein known as NMP22 in urine of patients. It is a proteomics-based diagnostic test for the diagnosis and monitoring of bladder cancer. NMP22 BladderChek is the first and only rapid assay approved by both the FDA and Health Canada for diagnosis and monitoring that physicians can use in their offices to help identify patients with bladder cancer.
Currently, the City of San Francisco and its fire department (SFFD) are providing free bladder cancer screening to all its current and retired firefighters. The NMP22® BladderChek® Test, a point-of-care urine test, developed and marketed by Matritech (Amex: MZT) is being used in the screening program. San Francisco is the first major city to fund and provide free annual testing for bladder cancer to its firefighters. To date, over 900 firefighters have been tested with the NMP22 BladderChek Test.