Firefighters' new battle: Cancer prevention

Posted at 1:31 PM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 21:15:24-05

You may think flames are the only serious danger firefighters face as a result of their occupation.

You would be wrong.

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests fighting fires increases a person’s risk of getting multiple types of cancers.

“The numbers are crazy,” said Steve Westcott, Ohio Director for the Firefighter Cancer Network, an organization which provides assistance to firefighters and families in the event of a cancer diagnosis.

“We are getting cancer much more than someone who doesn't do our job,” he said.

After his brother Mike, a Beachwood firefighter, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, Captain Mark Palumbo took action.

The Mayfield Heights firefighter’s concern led him to organize a free seminar entitled “Firefighter Occupational Cancer Prevention and Awareness.”

The seminar is scheduled for Tuesday, March 1 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Cleveland Clinic at 3050 Science Park Drive in Beachwood.

Westcott will present a course addressing firefighters’ cancer risk and review the best practices to reduce the risk of being diagnosed with the disease.

Westcott is a former firefighter and cancer survivor, twice defeating leukemia.

“I never really was cognizant of that fact you really have that human expiration date,” he said.

“We all do, but when you know that yours is coming, possible sooner than others, that hits you pretty good,” he said.

After recovering from a bone marrow transplant, Westcott has devoted his life to educating and assisting firefighters battling cancer.

Those interested in attending the class should RSVP by Feb. 23.

What happens when an Ohio firefighter is diagnosed with cancer?

NewsChannel5 Investigators found Ohio is among a minority of states which fail to recognize the link between firefighting and cancer

Thursday on NewsChannel5 at 11 p.m, Investigator Sarah Buduson reveals why Ohio lawmakers refuse  to offer help to the men and women willing to put their lives on the line to save us when they need it most.