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Fortunate Break: Buffalo Firefighter’s Life Saved by Cancer Screening Collaboration

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Captain Mark Egloff, nearing three decades as a Buffalo firefighter, has etched his name in history by being the first in the department to receive a line-of-duty cancer diagnosis.

Upon hearing the news, he expressed his initial fear, acknowledging the common reaction to the word “cancer.”

“It’s a scary thing to hear,” he shared with 7 News. “The word ‘cancer’ naturally instills fear in everyone.”

Capt. Mark Egloff

In a discussion, Capt. Mark Egloff recounted the moment he received the groundbreaking line-of-duty cancer diagnosis from the Buffalo Fire Department.

Fortunately, through a collaborative effort involving Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Buffalo Fire Department, and [ppp0], Captain Egloff’s lung cancer was identified at an early stage. Following surgery, he is now cancer-free and has resumed his duties.

“I was lucky that we caught it early enough to remove just a small segment,” he recounted. “After the procedure, I was quickly back on my feet.”

Roswell Park, known for its focus on high-risk populations, played a pivotal role in this success story.

Statistics reveal that firefighters face a 9% higher risk of developing all types of cancers and a 14% higher likelihood of succumbing to the disease. The awareness of these risks adds significance to the line-of-duty diagnosis.

Cancer risk for firefighters

Firefighters face elevated cancer risks compared to the general population.

Chris Whelan, president of Local 282, emphasized the importance of screenings as the initial step in prioritizing firefighters’ health. The focus remains on ensuring proper treatment, swift recovery, and a return to both work and family.

The collaborative efforts initiated a cancer prevention committee comprising Roswell Park, the fire department, and the union. This partnership led not only to screenings but also facilitated the provision of decontamination wipes to eliminate cancer-causing agents and secured state funding for specialized gear-cleaning equipment.

Ashley Snowden, Director of Physician and Corporate Relations at Roswell Park, highlighted the broader impact of these initiatives on firefighter health and community safety.

“It’s a step towards improved health, enhanced safety, and the continued protection of our community,” Snowden affirmed.

Snowden, Whelan, and Dr. Mary Reid, Roswell Park’s Chief of Cancer Screening, shared insights at the recent event in Miami, Florida, underscoring Buffalo’s pioneering model for other regions globally.

International Firefighter Cancer Symposium

Representatives from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Local 282 delivered presentations at the 2024 International Firefighter Cancer Symposium in Miami, Florida.

Whelan fielded inquiries from counterparts seeking to replicate Buffalo’s successful outcomes in their communities.

Reflecting on Buffalo’s progress, Whelan expressed pride in the collaborative efforts that have positioned the city as a beacon for best practices in this field.

Having conducted over 1,000 lung and skin cancer screenings for local first responders, Roswell Park aims to expand its reach further.

While Captain Egloff shies away from the limelight, he hopes that sharing his journey will underscore the critical importance of screenings for at-risk populations.

“As I’ve learned firsthand, early detection plays a pivotal role,” Captain Egloff emphasized.

As a seasoned member of the Buffalo Fire Department’s Rescue 1 unit, he advocates for increased screening participation among his fellow firefighters, aiming for universal involvement.