Suffolk Fire and Rescue, Grail team up for Blood Draw

Published 11:05 pm Monday, October 23, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

It was a moment of keeping Suffolk’s firefighters cancer free. 

Suffolk Fire and Rescue teamed up with health care company Grail to provide SFR’s first responders with the Galleri early cancer detection test during the Suffolk Fire and Rescue / Galleri Blood Draw event held on Oct. 18 at Fire Station 6. The test allowed firefighters to receive early cancer detection via a blood draw, with the $649 cost covered in full by the Suffolk Fire Department.

On what prompted the partnership, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief James Broglin talked about being interested in the opportunity following a regional safety meeting and learning about the Galleri test from the Chesapeake Fire Department. Broglin says that after speaking with their department’s medical doctor, who praised the test, it seemed like a win for the team.

Email newsletter signup

“One of my long term goals for the fire department and as the health and safety chief is to provide regular cancer screenings for our firefighters. So when we found out about this, [it] sounded like a good thing, the doctor agreed with it, so we went with it,” said Broglin.

Suffolk Fire Chief Michael Barakey expressed the importance of using the “state-of-the-art early cancer detection test” to help their firefighters.

“I want to thank Grail for their partnership to offer every firefighter and officer with the Galleri cancer early detection test,” said Barakey. “This test can detect a cancer signal for over 50 types of cancer. This is necessary as firefighters have a 9% increased risk of a cancer diagnosis and a 14% higher rate of dying from cancer than the general population. The blood draw is our opportunity to know if we have any cancer signals and, if so, start to address the information immediately with our doctors.”

Broglin provided details on how the Galleri test operates.

“The test operates off a pre-DNA signal. So if you have certain types of cancers in your body, the DNA kind of regurgitates itself over and over again, and this test picks up the signal and will let the tester know if you have a positive signal for a specific cancer,” Broglin said.

Lastly, Broglin expressed his hopes that these early detection tests will save the lives of firefighters.

“Our job is to save lives and property, but our lives are on the line because of the carcinogens that we’re exposed to in fires and hazardous materials,” he said. “ … once we establish this test, we’re going to create a baseline here. We’re working with our medical services doctor here, we’re working with our senior staff here, we’re going to work with the budget department, and we’re going to try to implement annual screens or screens based on age, family history, etc so we can save the lives of our firefighters.”