Boston firefighters get easier access to cancer screenings

Boston, MA - 02/14/19 - Fire forced evacuation of an elderly housing building in Brighton at 20 Washington Street. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff) Reporter: () Topic: (15brightonfire)
Lane Turner/Globe Staff
Boston firefighters battle a smoky fire at an elderly housing building in Brighton on Feb. 14.

Two out of three Boston firefighters will be diagnosed with cancer. Twenty-seven Boston firefighters under the age of 70 died from cancer between 2012 and 2017, and 13 are currently on leave because of cancer, according to the Boston Fire Department Relief Fund.

In response to those scary statistics, the Boston Fire Department Relief Fund has launched a new initiative to subsidize 50 percent of the costs of cancer screening and cardiovascular tests that are not covered by insurance.

The subsidized body scans will be available to firefighters who are over 50 years old and have 20 or more years of service in the Boston Fire Department.


“It’s to help promote early detection,” said Chris Puiia, a spokesman for the Boston Fire Department Relief Fund.

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Puiia said these kind of body scans typically cost around $800 and aren’t covered by insurance. The initiative launched at the beginning of this year, and applications started being accepted about two weeks ago, he said.

“We have received about 45 applications thus far,” he said.

Firefighters are more than twice as likely to develop cancer during their lifetime compared to civilians, according to the relief fund’s website. It’s an issue that Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph E. Finn has made a priorityto address.

“In Boston specifically, 67% of firefighters will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime,” the relief fund’s website states. “Even after additional precautionary measures have been implemented across the Department, the number of cancer diagnosis and death continue to rise at an alarming rate.”


The website further states: “Although the dangers of the job will never change, the Relief Fund can help improve firefighter health and wellness by detecting potential problems before they become too big to solve.”

To make a donation to the Boston Fire Department Relief Fund, visit

Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.