San Francisco Firefighters: Increased Risk for Bladder Cancer – Testing Underway

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In April the San Francisco Firefighter Cancer Prevention Foundation initiated a bladder cancer testing program for active and retireed firefighters. The goal of this program is to test 1,000 individuals at the workplace or retiree events using the NMP22 BladderChek test. According to the foundation, this is the second phase for the program and results will be part of a larger study. The educational message urges men and women to know the symptoms of bladder cancer -- blood in the urine, urinary frequency and urgency.

“(Bladder Cancer) is a lifetime cancer and we’re teaching firefighters and retirees to be vigilant of symptoms and signs of recurrence. Like any cancer, when caught early it is treatable and chances of survival improves.” -- Tony Stefani

The San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation (SFFCPF) launched the second phase of its bladder cancer testing program at the San Francisco Fire Department Local 798 Retiree luncheon on April 5 – more than 150 retired firefighters were tested for bladder cancer with a simple urine test. The Foundation is offering active and retired firefighters free bladder cancer testing. With the support of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) urology department, voluntary testing of 1,000 firefighters and retirees will be available at events and battalion sites. Results from an earlier testing of San Francisco firefighters in 2007 showed an increased risk of bladder cancer among both active and retired firefighters.

The program is similar to the bladder cancer study in 2007 of the San Francisco Fire Department sponsored by the Foundation with support from the fire department and UCSF. Tony Stefani, founder and Chairman of the Foundation, explained, “We used a low-cost, urine test, the NMP22 BladderChek® Test that will be used again on-site at events and battalion stations. The test was convenient, easy to use by our EMTs, and fast. UCSF physicians will evaluate results and provide consultation for follow-up care.”

The original testing of 1,286 active and retired firefighters showed firefighters may face an increased risk of developing transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), a common bladder cancer. Retired firefighters were especially at high-risk for the cancer. The study results were published in the Cancer Research Journal (2008).

These study results prompted the UCSF physicians to recommend firefighters and their physicians consider regular testing for bladder cancer. There are no routine screening guidelines for the first diagnosis of bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer has the highest rate of recurrence any cancer. Once diagnosed, regular testing to monitor for recurrence is routinely done.

Stefani added, “It’s a lifetime cancer and we’re teaching firefighters and retirees to be vigilant of symptoms and signs of recurrence. Like any cancer, when caught early it is treatable and chances of survival improves.”

The goal of the Foundation with this screening is to demonstrate that testing is easy and can be done in the workplace, on-site. The message urges men and women: Know the symptoms of bladder cancer -- blood in the urine, urinary frequency and urgency. Especially in women, it is sometimes mistaken for a repeat urinary tract infection.

“We are doing this in memory of those who faced a heroic death, not battling a fire, but battling cancer from the toxic fumes after dedicating one’s life to saving others,” Stefani said. “Our message is simple, Do not delay; see your physician or your company’s medical director.”

Those especially at risk are former or active smokers (twice the risk); and those in higher-risk occupations - firefighters, first responders, military, truck drivers, and chemical, paper and pulp manufacturing.

About Tony Stefani, a retired San Francisco firefighter, is a kidney cancer survivor and avid speaker on behalf of firefighter cancer health and education. He is Chairman of the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation (SFFCPF). In February 2010 he received the “Heroes and Heart” Award from the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation for his work promoting cancer awareness and testing for San Francisco firefighters. Stefani was Captain of Rescue One, an EMT, HazMat specialist, training instructor and instructor of Rescue Systems I & II, confined space tech, certified as a black mask diver as well as surf and cliff rescue. He trained with the San Francisco Police Department Tactical Unit and Bomb Unit for weapons of mass destruction. He was member of the San Francisco Fire Department Technical Rescue Committee. Stefani holds an associate degree in fire science from San Francisco College. For more information contact Tony at sffcpf@yahoo.com or go to http://www.facebook.com/tony.stefani1

About the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation: The San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation was established in 2007 as a non-profit organization dedicated to using proven scientific research and education to foster the prevention and early detection of cancer occurring in firefighters. Initial funding for the organization was provided by a $100,000 donation from the San Francisco firefighters union Local 798. Captain (retired)Tony Stefani, San Francisco Fire Department and cancer survivor is founder and Chairman of the Foundation.

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Karen Roberts
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Tony Stefani

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