FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Fall River Fire Chief Roger St. Martin knows how cancer can impact those who work in the fire service.

“We take it very seriously,” he said.

St. Martin said one of his firefighters is going through chemotherapy right now and the department recently lost two members to cancer in the last eight years.

“It’s tough, especially if it’s something you can pick up on early, get good treatment,” St. Martin said. “They might still be around.”

That’s why he’s encouraging every firefighter to take advantage of a program that offers free, early-detection cancer screenings.

The program is run by the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (DFS), and already offers checks for skin cancer and oral cancer, as well as CT scans and PSA blood tests. Now, it’s expanding to include mammograms and ultrasounds.

“Firefighters are at greater risk of developing cancer, developing it at younger ages, and receiving a late diagnosis than the public they protect,” Mass. State Fire Marshal Jon Davine said in a statement.

“This includes the growing number of women firefighters in Massachusetts and across the nation,” Davine continued. “As we kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re proud to announce that we’ve added mammograms to the array of free cancer screening options we offer to Massachusetts firefighters.”

Research shows firefighters face a higher risk of developing cancer because of the hazardous materials and chemicals they’re exposed to on the job.

St. Martin said he has participated in the free screenings offered by DFS, which found skin cancer on his back that he later got removed.

“It is a really good program, and I suggest any firefighter that has the opportunity, get it done,” St. Martin said. “It’s in your best interest.”

In order to be eligible for a mammogram, ultrasound, CT scan or PSA blood test, firefighters must:

  • be a Massachusetts resident;
  • have been a Massachusetts firefighter for at least 10 years;
  • be at least 40 years old;
  • have attended an MFA skin cancer screening (SCA), OR a Taking Action Against Cancer in the Fire Service (422) class in the past three years;
  • provide MFA with the name, telephone number and fax of your current primary care provider (PCP);
  • answer questions truthfully and electronically sign a waiver.

The DFS is also in the process of obtaining a mobile testing unit, according to St. Martin, which would allow firefighter to be tested on-site.