Kelly Gill still carries in her wallet a printed Google image of a man suffering from basal-cell carcinoma—a type of skin cancer that when first visible looks something like a mosquito bite, but, in this case, ultimately spread and disfigured the photographed man’s face with a puffy red tumor masking his nose and eye socket.
Today, Gill can’t help but think: That could’ve been me.
Of course, a basal-cell carcinoma diagnosis was the last thing Gill, a quality control auditor at GMFS Mortgage, was thinking about at work on an October day when she strolled into a skin cancer screening offered by the Prevention on the Go-Workplace program.
The program marks a joint effort between the Mary Bird Perkins-Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center and the Albermarle Foundation to educate employees about cancer, and to prevent and detect different types of cancer early in corporate environments. As a participating company, GMFS offers its employees opportunities to walk down the hall during work hours to get a quick screening. Gill, on a whim, took advantage off the offer, having noticed a small red dot on her nose.
The doctor who saw Gill suspected the red dot was a carcinoma and recommended she visit a dermatologist. Within two weeks, Gill was officially diagnosed and underwent surgery. Medical professionals caught the skin cancer early enough to remove it entirely.
Gill’s cancer was among 24 diagnoses that came from the program between its August 2016 launch and May 2019 screenings. Since its June 2016 pilot, Mary Bird Perkins-OLOL has also reported removals of 109 pre-cancerous lesions—including one oral lesion—from program participants. Other program results include significant lifestyle changes; for example, some employees have quit smoking cold-turkey after getting screened, while others have begun scheduling regular medical check-ups.
Its promising outcomes are encouraging more employers—23 throughout Louisiana, to date—to purchase the screenings as an add-on service in their companies’ wellness packages. In a state with the fourth-highest cancer-related mortality rate in the country, the service is especially appealing to Baton Rouge’s corporate scene.