New Hampshire fire fighter is cancer-free thanks to life-saving program

January 12 • 2024

Local 3820 Secretary-Treasurer Peter Lennon

A New Hampshire pilot program for fire fighter cancer screenings in Manchester has already saved a life.  

The screening, conducted by Dartmouth Health and Anthem Blue Cross in October 2023, found stage 2 colon cancer in Manchester, NH Local 3820 Secretary-Treasurer Peter Lennon, a 25-year veteran fire fighter and current Manchester fire marshal. He was then quickly admitted for surgery to remove the cancer and remains cancer-free. 

Lennon explained to WMUR and other media outlets that free cancer screenings should be available to all fire fighters because it is a critical tool for cancer prevention. 

“There’s a lot of [fire fighters] out there, working every day, and having the same symptoms I had and don’t have the means to get screened,” he said. “This will definitely save lives.” 

Had Lennon’s cancer not been detected this early, doctors told Lennon that he would have only had about four years to live.

For Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month, the IAFF asked Lennon for his guidance and insight on cancer prevention:

What is some advice you would share with a new recruit about reducing the risk of developing cancer?
Lennon: Make sure you’re wearing your gear right, clean up after each fire, get your annual physicals, and take advantage of any cancer prevention or wellness program through your department or local. New recruits are not immune just because they are young and new to the job.

What resources do you think should be available to all fire fighters to help prevent cancer?
Lennon: A lot of departments already take basic cancer-preventative measures, like having two sets of gear, showering after every call, and cleaning gear. But that’s not enough. All fire fighters should have regular access to free cancer screenings, stronger PPE protocols, and more information about cancer symptoms.

How has your cancer diagnosis changed both your personal life and work life?
Lennon: The diagnosis makes me reevaluate what I am doing because I want to do everything I can to keep from getting sick again. I could have retired, but I decided to stay on the job because I wanted to use my story to spread the word about the importance of cancer screenings.