Firefighters: Get screened like your life depends on it

By Martha Conway
Thursday, August 18, 2022

CRA Medical Imaging talks about firefighter health, low-dose CT Medicare expansion

CRA Medical Imaging, one of the largest diagnostic imaging practices in Central New York, strives to deliver the best care for the best patient outcomes possible. CRA Medical Imaging has zeroed in on a particular population: Firefighters. Cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for firefighters, followed by heart disease. The Syracuse municipal health plan offers firefighters earlier access to potentially life-saving screenings, which are offered in collaboration with Crouse Medical Practice – Cardiology, Crouse Radiology Associates, Empire Dermatology, Fayetteville Dermatology and Hematology-Oncology Associates of CNY.

Screenings, like smoke detectors, save lives

Cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health and safety, causing 66% of career firefighter line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) from 2002 to 2019 and 70% of LODDs for career firefighters in 2016, according to data from the International Association of Fire Fighters. Heart disease caused 18% of career LODDs for the same period.

Firefighters have a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population, according to research by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. The most prevalent cancers were respiratory (lung, mesothelioma), GI (oral cavity, esophageal, large intestine) and kidney; however, firefighters also have twice the risk of developing testicular cancer and mesothelioma; about 1.5 times the risk of developing multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and skin cancer; and about 1.25 times the risk of developing malignant melanoma, brain cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and leukemia.

Most screenings — which include testing for colorectal, prostate, kidney, bladder, thyroid and lung cancers, as well as EKGs, cardiac stress tests and cancer genetics screening surveys according to age and circumstances — can be completed during annual Firefighter Screening Days, but individuals can make appointments that are more convenient for them.

Since 2005, the nonprofit Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN) has assisted and provided one-on-one mentoring to thousands of cancer-stricken firefighters and their families. FCSN also delivers cancer awareness and prevention training nationwide. For more information, visit firefightercancersupport.org/resources/faq.

Updated reimbursement policies sure to improve lung cancer screening rates

Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a detailed summary of expanded reimbursements involving low-dose computed tomography screening for lung cancer.

According to reporting by Dave Fornell in the March 11 issue of Computed Tomography, the move is expected to increase access to this critical diagnostic tool. In Fornell’s article, ACR Principal Economic Policy Analyst Alicia Blakey said there is a concerted effort to increase screenings for lung cancer and awareness of the availability of low-dose CT scans. Blakey said the goal is to find and treat lung cancer in its earliest stage, particularly in high-risk, asymptomatic individuals.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.; about 85% of lung cancer deaths occur in current or former cigarette smokers. The most common cause of lung cancer deaths is non-small-cell lung cancer.

CMS changes lower the screening age, shorten the length of annual cigarette consumption, expand access for commercial payers and Medicaid expansion states, and lower the age for screening to accommodate younger and disabled people, all of which will expand low-dose CT screening, particularly to historically underserved populations and people who have shorter smoking histories.


Submitting a scheduling request form (crouse.org/firefighterform/) will help expedite registration; for more information or to register by phone, contact Marianne Kokosenski at 315-472-7504 Ext. 1349 or email mkokosenski@hoacny.com.

When registering for screenings, participants may opt to get an eight-week trial membership at the YMCA of Central New York. For more information on the program and participating branches, visit crouse.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Oncology-Trifold-Brochure-1-compressed.pdf.

Those needing a primary care physician may get help finding a provider by emailing navigator@crouse.org or calling 315-470-8034; visit crouse.org/providers for a list of Crouse Health Network primary care practices.