Updates from the front lines in the fight against occupational cancer in the fire service.

FCSN Launches Skin Cancer Screenings with FEMA Grant

FCSN was proud to launch the first of 16 skin cancer screenings at this year’s conference as part of a FEMA Fire Prevention and Safety Grant to enhance the safety of the hardworking firefighters who put their lives on the line every day for us. We’re proud to partner with the National Development Research Institute and DetecTogether for this initiative.


Please see the story below about the importance of skin cancer screenings from career Firefighter Roger A. Marks of the Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service and volunteer quartermaster of Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad:

When Bob Irsay secretly hired Mayflower trucks to move the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis in the cloak of darkness back in 1984, I never thought I would be given the chance to express my disappointment as a native Marylander. Fast forward to FDIC 2023 – the Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN) arranged for me to strip in the stadium, and I didn’t even get my wrist slapped for undressing in public. 


Now that I have your attention, let me explain the details that allowed me to undress for all the right reasons. The FCSN and American Red Cross (ARC) offered new programs at FDIC to have participants have a free cancer scan and give blood in between classes at the Mecca of Fire Department training conferences. It was a no brainer for me and I signed up as soon as I heard the test was available for free on site. You see, I am a long-time fire service safety and health advocate and have been involved in monthly cancer support zoom calls for the past several years. On a more personal note, my dad had just passed from leukemia after a quick but aggressive 6 month battle in which I burned through over 850 hours of FMLA helping him with the treatment process and hospital visits at John Hopkins in Baltimore. I attended the FDIC class “Cancer: Prevent it, Detect it early, and Survive it!” and knew the screening would be a valuable use of my time.  


I made my way from the convention center to the Colts stadium to get my free body scan and give my pint of blood that I hadn’t done since before the COVID pandemic. In the cancer screening clinic, off the main field, I was directed to doff my street clothes and don disposable gown, before the doctor conducted the body scan. Dr. Carrie Davis found a very small asymmetrical spot behind my left ear that I didn’t know was there and had given me no discomfort. She flagged it as a probable basal cell carcinoma, then spent 10 to 15 minutes explaining what she found, what needed to happen next, and talking about correlations to other types of cancer. She took a photo with my phone to share with my primary back home, and gave me literature on the specifics of the scan and general knowledge.  


When I got home on Saturday, I called my primary care physician and told her I needed a biopsy based on the finding in Indy. She told me to expect to wait three to four months for an appointment for a skin biopsy. I thought it would be unwise to wait, so I reached out to my Fire/Rescue Occupational Medical Services (FROMS) unit and got input from the career captain assigned to that position. Through his assistance, I found a group practice that was close to my home and was able to get an appointment two weeks later.  The dermatologist/oncologist reviewed my scan and then examined the site himself and noted that it was a great and early find.  He took the biopsy sample. Eight days later, I received the call that the results of the biopsy came back positive and I was in shock.I made some phone calls to my chain of command and a friend who ran the family support call for the Florida Firefighters Safety and Health Collaborative to get some personal perspective. The surgery was performed three days later, and appears to have been  successful, with all margins being clean. I’m currently on Non Service-Connected Light Duty (NSCLD) which will more than likely be retroactively changed to Service-Connected Light Duty (SCLD) once the workers compensation commission reviews my case. A former FROMS medical director,  currently serving an appointment to the First Responder Center for Excellence (FRCE) Firefighter Physical Standards Committee, advised me to give the tissue time to fully heal by riding the EMS unit for several shifts after I’m cleared for full duty.  She said that the cancer may be surgically cleared and the stitches fully healed, but the scar tissue will still be sensitive to thermal assault. Lastly I was informed of the increased risk because of my current diagnosis and I have contacted my digestive health specialist and moved my colonoscopy up just to be safe.  Bottom line is my life has changed, and for the better, because the FCSN cared enough to make it so incredibly easy to screen for cancer. The system works if you embrace opportunities as they come your way; don’t let them pass you by. It doesn’t matter how good the benefits may be if you’re still in the mindset that it won’t happen to me. 


Yours in community service and public safety, 

Roger A. Marks

Skin cancer mark behind ear

FEMA Grant Approval