Chandler becomes latest Arizona city to offer free cancer screenings to firefighters

The City of Chandler was awarded a federal grant worth nearly a million dollars which will provide cancer screenings to the city’s 220-plus firefighters.
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 5:46 PM MST
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CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Chandler firefighter Scott Graves knows his health is at risk every time he goes to work, but it’s not the heat from a fire or possible collapsing structure that poses the biggest threat. “We might be exposed to toxins or carcinogens, as well as other things that typically any other job wont be exposed to,” said Graves. Cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters nationwide.

In Arizona, the number of firefighters diagnosed with cancer is rising, with first responders exposed to hundreds of chemicals and unknown substances that get into their lungs, eyes, and skin.

Chandler Assistant Fire Chief Keith Hargis said that one of the keys to preventing serious illness in firefighters is detecting cancer cases early when it’s more easily treatable and doesn’t become life-threatening. “Certain cancers, specifically rare cancers like kidney or colorectal cancer, you see in firefighters in their 30′s, when the general public doesn’t see it until their 50′s or 60′s,” said Hargis. “We know that our job increases our risk. so finding cancer early is so critical.”

The City of Chandler was recently awarded a federal grant worth nearly a million dollars. The grant is specifically designed to provide cancer screenings to the city’s 220-plus firefighters. The program is voluntary, but everyone is encouraged to get screened over the next 18 months.

Bryan Jeffries is a cancer survivor and president of the Professional Firefighters of Arizona. He is encouraged to see so many Arizona cities now offering cancer screenings for firefighters but said more work needs to be done to protect the health of 1st responders.

“All the clothes we wear into a fire are designed to protect us from heat, they are never designed to protect us from chemical exposure for chemical absorption through our skin,” said Jeffries. “That’s going to have to change dramatically. I hope firefighters of the future are wearing very different gear than we are using.”