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Valley Firefighters Receive Pre-Screenings for Cancer

2 years 6 months 3 days ago Monday, March 19 2018 Mar 19, 2018 March 19, 2018 10:41 PM March 19, 2018 in News

EDINBURG – A growing health concern among firefighters prompts changes in one Rio Grande Valley city.

Edinburg firefighters are receiving pre-screens for cancer.

The president of the Edinburg Professional Firefighters Association said this prescreening allows the department to take a proactive rather than reactive role in the fight against cancer.

For 27 years of running into burning buildings and saving lives, Edinburg Deputy Fire Chief Ubaldo Perez told CHANNEL 5 NEWS in the heat of the moment there is only one thing on his mind.

“You’re focusing on the actual rescue itself, you’re kind of not thinking about what the after effect is,” Perez explained.

Perez said for years his own health was his last concern. Recently, that’s begun to change.

“As you get older you know you start to change, you know you have a family and people you need to support and you want to be there for. And that’s when you start to thinking about, hey you know what this job actually comes with more hazard than you anticipate,” Perez told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.

Perez isn’t the only firefighter concerned about his health. Mark Quintanilla, president of the Edinburg Professional Firefighters Association said for several years concern has grown surrounding one disease.

“Cancer is really big in the fire service right now. People thought about it, they never realized it, but it’s here. And we are trying to be proactive instead of reactive,” Quintanilla explained.

Quintanilla said a large amount of carcinogens firefighters are exposed to increases their risk of contracting the potentially deadly disease. His association has teamed up with the Cancerdogs, a Canada program to test all 112 members of the Edinburg Fire Department.

On Monday, paid staff, support staff and volunteers received a 10-minute breathing exam. 

“After that, we put it back in the package. We send it back to Canada and cancer dogs Canada has beagles that are trained to sniff out the pre-cancer in those masks,” Quintanilla said.

Quintanilla told CHANNEL NEWS the results of the exam are expected in six to eight weeks. Only members of the department who have tested positive will be notified of their results.

Perez said he’s grateful for the prescreening. He’s looking forward to more proactive health screening.

Quintanilla adds taxpayers won’t have to pay for the exams. He told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the funding has come from his accusation’s budget as well as the volunteer fire fighter’s budget.

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