LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- Nearly half of Lawton's Fire Department is participating in a program designed to detect the early signs of cancer.
That program is called CancerDogs.
The Canada based company was founded in 2010 with the goal to create a cancer screening system for firefighters that will become the model for screening the public.
"You just put the mask on," said John Hambrick, firefighter. "You have to wear it for 10 minutes which it's somewhat restricting but because of the flu season going on it's nothing we haven't done before. It's just like any other mask."
John Hambrick is one firefighter who decided to buy the cancer detection kit for $20.
After the breath sample, the mask is sealed and sent back to the CancerDogs company in Canada.
Trained dogs sniff the masks and if the results come back positive another kit is sent to the individual for a second screening.
That process can take up to 10 days.
Hambrick said the risk of developing cancer from his job is something he knew before he signed on four years ago.
"In order to make a difference sometimes you're exposed to toxic environments," said Hambrick.
Those toxic environments are what Assistant Fire Chief Eric Troutman said causes cancer to develop.
"With the modern construction of homes and when they are burning they give off more cancer-causing chemicals due to the glues and manmade materials in the building products," said Troutman.
He said firefighters are more prone to cancers such as; testicular, esophageal cancer and mesothelioma.
Besides the kits he said the department is taking additional steps to prevent firefighters from getting cancer.
"We're encouraging them to wash their gear more often, not to bring it into living corners of station," said Troutman. "We are deconning at the scene of our fires...all the soot and materials they get on their gear."
He said his hope is the kits will allow firefighters to get a jumpstart on treatment if needed, but most importantly be aware.
"We get caught up in the masculinity of the job sometimes," said Troutman. "We want our guys to be aware what they are doing is obviously dangerous while they're doing it, but also there's and errant risk in performing the job that can have long term consequences.
In the past, several Lawton firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer and one has died.