Dana-Farber, MA Firefighters Team Up to Tackle Cancer Risks

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is proud to announce the launch of the Direct Connect Partnership with Massachusetts Firefighters, marking a crucial step in addressing the heightened cancer risk faced by firefighters.

Dana-Farber's Direct Connect program partners with employers who want to support their workforce across the spectrum of oncology needs and provides guided access to world-renowned expertise from cancer care specialists. Direct Connect has more than 60 partners enrolled.

This latest collaboration involves thousands of Massachusetts firefighters, including the Boston Fire Cancer Foundation, Boston Fire Department, and the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, emphasizing a shared commitment to supporting those who serve our communities.

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with the MA firefighters. We appreciate the tremendous service that our firefighters provide to our communities and are grateful to have the opportunity to demonstrate our gratitude by supporting them," said Betsy O'Donnell, MD, Director of Early Detection and Prevention of Malignant Conditions at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Firefighters are at a significantly higher risk of developing cancer due to occupational hazards. Recognizing the urgent need for specialized support, the Direct Connect program offers streamlined access to world-class cancer care for firefighters and their families. This includes expedited diagnosis, personalized treatment plans, and access to second opinions, ensuring comprehensive support during their healthcare journey.

The Boston Fire Department was one of the first to partner with Dana-Farber. According to Dan Ranahan, Founder of the Boston Fire Cancer Foundation, six active and five retired Boston firefighters are currently battling a cancer diagnosis, and another is awaiting results through Dana-Farber's Direct Connect.

"Having a direct connection to Dana-Farber for any firefighter diagnosed with cancer is remarkable," said Ranahan.

In 2020, Ranahan himself was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and treated at Dana-Farber.

"Being able to have a member seen quickly and efficiently by world-renowned doctors is the top-of-the-line care firefighters deserve. Although there are more and more firefighters diagnosed with occupational cancer, having this connection means that we are able to decrease the percentage of firefighters dying from occupational cancer," he said.

The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM) has also partnered with Dana-Farber. The PFFM represents more than 12,000 active and retired firefighters from 223 cities and towns across the Commonwealth.

"Cancer is an epidemic in our profession, having a disproportionate impact on firefighters. Partnering with Dana-Farber to connect our members to world-renowned cancer care and treatment will save firefighters' lives and help us move the needle in our battle against occupational cancer," said President Rich MacKinnon, Jr. "We thank Dana-Farber for their community involvement and for recognizing the brave work Massachusetts firefighters perform every day."

This partnership not only underscores the commitment to addressing the unique healthcare needs of firefighters but also highlights Dana-Farber's dedication to preventing cancer and detecting the disease in its earliest forms.

In December, Dana-Farber launched the Centers for Early Detection and Interception, a first-of-its-kind, integrated clinic to increase early detection of precancerous conditions and to prevent cancer from arising in individuals at increased risk for the disease. For patients diagnosed with cancer precursor or inherited conditions, teams at the new Centers for Early Detection will define their risk of developing cancer and discuss with patients their personal risk of progression to active cancer and provide treatment options to prevent progression, using state-of-the-art technologies. Starting with an initial diagnostic evaluation, patients will receive a personalized plan for monitoring and interventions.

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