By Chris Mc Loone, Associate Editor
With all the cancer research that goes on in the world today and with all the advisories to get screened early because early detection is key, the last thing I expected was an attempt to talk me out of it.
I am in my 19th year in the fire service. I’m a volunteer in a company that may reach 500 calls for the first time in its history this year. Of those 500 calls, very few include exposure to the products of combustion. However, through the years, I’ve been exposed to the products of combustion many different times, for varying lengths of time, and various amounts. I honestly don’t have a good idea of what I’ve been exposed to. Could there have been asbestos or other nasty carcinogens? Sure. So at my annual well check, I requested a chest x-ray. I didn’t ask for it because I’m experiencing symptoms of anything, but because I want to make sure that if anything’s there, I get it addressed now. But what a hassle it is to get a scrip for one.
To my doctor’s credit, he was willing to work with me. I explained that during my almost 19 years, I’ve been exposed to lots of things, and I just want to make sure there’s nothing there and that early detection is key, and so on. I’m in pretty good health. My cholesterol is in good shape. I think he just really didn’t see any reason for me to do it since the chances were low I have anything. I was very surprised to find that his practice treats many firefighters—both career and volunteer—and the practice doesn’t recommend screening in such a fashion. He told me if I smoked five packs of cigarettes a day, he wouldn’t recommend a chest x-ray. All that being said, I wanted one. So, now came the really complicated part—a diagnosis. That’s right. Evidently, I can’t just say I want an x-ray to screen myself for any possible lung cancers. Nope. What we have to do is look up different medical reasons. I felt bad to have tripped up my doctor like this, but as I said, he was willing to work with me. Finally, the obvious jumped out at him and he ordered the x-ray I wanted. The reason he gave is that I’m asthmatic and have been exposed to smoke on various occasions.
Early detection of cancer is key to successful treatment. We all know that. The reason for coming up with a concrete reason for the x-ray was because insurance may not have paid for it otherwise. Insurance? The last thing I should be worried about is insurance. Which led me to thinking, why is it me being proactive here?
Fire Departments should be demanding chest x-rays during their annual physicals. No annual physicals? Start them. Put aside money for the chest x-rays. The departments should be doing the physicals. Perhaps that’s why my doctor said they don’t screen the firefighters coming to their office. Hopefully that means the departments to which they belong are running the screenings. I’m probably preaching to the choir for the most part, but I’m thinking there are departments out there with personnel in the same boat I’m in. I didn’t have this much trouble getting a colonoscopy—and I think everyone will agree that a chest x-ray is a little more appealing.