First responders cancer screening

“Cancer is the No. 1 killer of first responders,” said Dr. Vershalee Shukla of Vincere Cancer Center.

PHOENIX (3TV / CBS 5) -- A new program will provide free cancer screening services for first responders across the Valley.

Police and firefighters will be eligible for the screening services at nine different cancer treatment centers. They’ll also receive follow-up consultation care.

The program will be provided through a partnership of the Vincere Cancer Center, the City of Phoenix, and other Valley agencies.

“Cancer is the No. 1 killer of first responders,” said Dr. Vershalee Shukla of Vincere Cancer Center.

Last month, Chandler Fire Capt. Mark Boulanger died after battling lung cancer. The department said his cancer was due to on-the-job exposure and classified his passing as a line-of-duty death.

[RELATED: Chandler Fire Dept. treating captain's death from lung cancer as line-of-duty death]

“We all sign up for this job knowing the hazards,” said Chandler Fire Department Battalion Chief Jeff West. “But to see one of your brothers that you know and love…it makes it a little more real.”

But the doctors behind the cancer screening program hope they can reverse the trends, and prevent deaths like Boulanger’s.

“Certainly we’d encourage our brothers and sisters to look into the screening,” West said.

Valley first responders are asked to call in to Vincere Cancer Screening to schedule an appointment during the month of November. The number is 480-625-0019. (Click or tap the phone number to call from this story on your mobile device.)

And Shulka says she hopes to expand the program beyond the Valley, saying there’s still a lot that isn’t known about cancer risks for first responders.

“There's not great guidelines on when to start screening first responders,” Shulka said. “But the more we know, a better job we can do."


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