The Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma are launching a program in 2024 offering free annual cancer screenings to first responders in Southwest Oklahoma.
Beginning February 1, 2024, the Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma will offer free cancer screenings for first responders at their three locations in Altus, Lawton, and Duncan. The program will include physical examinations and procedures to screen for lung, prostate, testicular, colon, and skin cancers, and tests will include Prostate Specific Antigens (PSA) and Low Dose Computerized Tomography (Low Dose CT) as applicable. If there is a diagnosis or suspicion of cancer, then further testing and procedures will be ordered as needed and billed to the provider’s insurance carrier. Eligibility includes current and retired firefighters - career and volunteer, police officers, and emergency medical services.
Lane Hooton, Chief Operating Officer of the Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma said of the program, “Screening tests can detect cancer before symptoms appear, enabling early intervention and potentially improving treatment outcomes. Identifying individuals at high risk for certain types of cancer allows for targeted screening and monitoring. High-risk individuals may include those with a family history of cancer, certain genetic predispositions, or exposure to specific environmental factors as seen with first responders.”
Cancer is the #1 cause of line-of-duty death for firefighters. In June 2022, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, classified the firefighter occupation as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), on the basis of sufficient evidence for cancer in humans. Group 1 is the same classification as formaldehyde, cigarette smoke, and asbestos. Since 2020, many states have enacted legislation to establish screening and prevention initiatives and to increase access to benefits and compensation for firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer. In 2021, states like Alabama, Missouri, and Tennessee all saw legislation introduced to provide for cancer screenings for firefighters. In Oklahoma, Daniel Pae, Representative for House District 62, has filed HB 3573, aptly named the Fighting Chance for Firefighters Act. The legislation’s focus is on early detection- providing free access to annual cancer screenings for current and former firefighters.
The Cancer Center’s free cancer screening program and the introduction of HB 3573 into legislation is part of a larger initiative. The driving force behind this initiative is Carey Monroe, community advocate and wife of 16 year career firefighter with the Altus Fire Department, David Monroe.“There is a definitive need in our communities for access to cancer screenings for first responders,” says Monroe. “Firefighters are much more likely to be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals in their efforts to keep our communities safe. Everything from the stress level they work under to their turnout gear is linked to heightened cancer risk. Other first responders such as law enforcement and EMTs are often on the scene of fires with little to no protection from these harmful chemicals as well. Some of those risks are inherent to the job and cannot be mitigated and the research shows that early detection is key. This program is about giving these brave men and women a fighting chance.”
According to the American Cancer Society 5-year SEER data, early detection can mean a cancer patient is up to 10x more likely to survive. “Regular cancer screenings by medical providers is a big piece of that puzzle and it’s too important to allow it to be a benefit that becomes a bargaining chip at the negotiation table. Annual screenings along with educational programs such as DetecTogether, a 3-step program that teaches firefighters how to detect cancer early, will help ensure our first responders have the tools they need to stay healthy. I know I speak for the families of southwest Oklahoma firefighters when I say we are immeasurably grateful to the Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma for stepping into the gap and providing this life-saving program to first responders.”
First responders may take advantage of this program beginning February 1, 2024 by contacting their nearest Cancer Center of Southwest Oklahoma and making an appointment. Eligibility is open to all first responders and appointment times are subject to availability. Visit www.ccswok.com/ for more information.
For more information about cancer and the firefighting profession please see references below.
International Agency for Research on Cancer announcement on occupational cancer risks of firefighters
Firefighter Cancer Awareness, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC
The Impact of Occupational Cancer, U.S. Fire Administration
Fire Fighters and Cancer Risk, American Cancer Society
Firefighter Cancer Initiative, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Health System