October 14, 2020
As a thank you to local first responders, Porter Family Dentistry is offering free oral cancer screenings to firefighters in Montgomery County for the next several weeks.
The screenings will be held on Fridays when the office is usually closed so that firefighters don’t have to wait.
In 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published a multi-year study of cancer rates in firefighters, and the findings showed that firefighters had a higher number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths than the general U.S. population. Among the cancers found in the sample of nearly 30,000 firefighters, those most often found were digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers.
In recent months, firefighters across the country have been traveling to areas, like California, that their help is needed. Dr. Mustafa Yamani of Porter Family Dentistry went to school in California and has fond memories of the nature and beauty of the state.
“It’s such a beautiful place, it’s really sad reading all of the stuff in the news that’s going on there,” Yamani said. “From all around the country they (the firefighters) come together and they provide this service. It’s just amazing what they’re doing and I really appreciate that. I just want to do something for them.”
The generous act of the firefighters inspired him to give back, and since oral cancer screenings are a service his office already offers he decided to give them to firefighters for free.
While this is the first year that the dental office has offered free screenings, Yamani and his wife Sabrina, who is the office manager, plan on making it an annual thing. The trials of 2020 also helped them decide to give back.
“Things seem to be going from bad to worse, to even worse, and it just doesn’t seem to be stopping for our first responders,” Sabrina said. “They’re just being hit with things one after the other.”
Sabrina started by reaching out to fire departments in the east past of Montgomery County to let them know about the opportunity and the response was immediate and positive. Already, the dental office has screenings set up with local firefighters.
Because firefighters are at a higher risk of developing cancer, many departments take an aggressive approach to screenings and check-ups. Early detection is vital. Such is the approach of the East Montgomery County Fire Department where firefighters undergo a National Fire Protection Agency physicals annually.
“It’s huge to us,” Eran Denzler, captain and PIO with the department, said of being able to get the oral screenings for free. “It’s a great show of appreciation for what we do and the risks that we take. Every day we go and put our lives on the line for the community, and for them to give back and worry about our safety is something we’re not used to but it’s much appreciated.”
The department averages around one to two structure fires a week, that does not include car, grass, and dumpster fires, among others. One of the reasons cancer is more prevalent among firefighters is because they are exposed to various materials and substances when they enter a fire. The department covers 144 square miles with five stations and around 60 employees, and Denzler said they stay very busy.
The screenings start as a physical and visual exam, then the doctor will use ultraviolet light to see potential lesions. If Yamani believes that an abnormality may be concerning he will send the patient to an expert to get a biopsy.
“Early detection means the prognosis of any treatment is much, much better,” he said.