More than 1,400 active and retired Chicago Local 2 members have received free cancer screenings thanks to a partnership between Local 2 and the Rush Lung Center.
“More than 75 percent of the names that go up on the walls of the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial are due to occupational cancer,” said General President Edward Kelly. “Early screenings can save lives and keep names off that wall. I applaud the great work being done by Local 2 and the Rush Lung Center.”
Local 2 Vice President Pat Cleary got the idea to offer free cancer screenings for active and retired members after hearing retired member Bill Nolan’s story. Nolan, who survived two bouts with lung cancer, was speaking on the importance of early cancer screenings, especially for fire fighters.
“As our members contract cancer at a much higher rate than the average population, we should be tested earlier and more often. After hearing Brother Nolan’s story, I wanted to see what Local 2 could do to make that happen,” said Cleary. “I reached out to Dr. Christopher Seder, a thoracic surgeon at the Rush Lung Center, to determine what could be done on behalf of our members.”
From there, Local 2 and the Rush Lung Center solidified their partnership. There was still a question of funding, however, as specific criteria must be met for annual cancer screenings to be covered by health insurance. So Local 2 agreed to pick up the cost for those members who do not meet the criteria.
The first of the screenings were held in March 2022 and have continued with regularity. Technicians primarily check for lung cancer, but the process also includes screening for markers (i.e. high levels of calcium, etc.) of other cancers and heart attack risk.
“These screenings are especially important for our older members who were on the job when protective gear was either of a lesser quality than we have today or nonexistent,” said Cleary. “I truly believe these screenings have already saved lives.”
While some of these screenings have come up clean, others have found early stages of cancer, advanced cancer needing emergency surgery to remove tumor(s), and some at risk for a heart attack.
“It will take all of us to battle the scourge of cancer within our ranks,” said Kelly. “This unique partnership in Chicago can serve as a model for other local affiliates to serve their brothers and sisters.”
The IAFF and the American Cancer Society are working together to prevent cancer in fire fighters and support those currently battling the disease. Go to iaff.org/fightcancer to learn more.