Raising breast cancer awareness in the workplace
October marks the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is celebrated across the world to increase attention and support for the prevention, early detection, and treatment of breast cancer.
Apart from individual efforts, employers can also promote breast cancer awareness by encouraging your valued employees to participate in early detection. It’s not only about reducing the potential risks of financial loss and increased premiums, but also about saving lives, building a positive company image, and showing that you care about your staff.
In this feature by Pacific Prime, we will provide a comprehensive overview of how you can boost awareness of breast cancer in the workplace.
The most common cancer in women worldwide
Breast cancer is rated by The World Cancer Research Fund International as the most common cancer in women worldwide, and the second most common cancer overall. There were already over 2 million new cases in 2018 alone.
As prevalent as breast cancer is, the survival rates of patients are much higher when it is diagnosed earlier. The figures from the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database between 2008 and 2014 show that there is a strong correlation between survival rates and breast cancer stages.
More specifically, if the cancer is found only in the part of the body where it started, it is referred to as localized. The 5-year relative survival rate for women with localized (stage 1) breast cancer is 98.7%.
For women with regional breast cancer, which means that the cancer has spread to regional lymph nodes (stage 2 and 3), the 5-year relative survival rate is 85.3%.
For women with metastasized cancer, which means that the cancer has spread to another part of the body (stage 4), the 5-year relative survival rate is 27%.
As shown above, early detection of breast cancer can significantly reduce the related mortality rate. Regular breast examination is widely recognized as the most effective preventive method.
4 ways to boost breast cancer awareness at work
As a caring and responsible employer, there’s a wide array of measures you can take to encourage breast health awareness.
Mammograms in the workplace are getting increasingly common nowadays. This convenient and time-saving service can drive more female employees to get screened regularly, and takes only 15 minutes. Employees can easily arrange self-exams at breaks or during lunch hour so that it would not affect their work schedules. Even if you can’t afford hosting a mobile mammogram in the workplace, you can produce flyers or brochures listing out the closest screening sites or mammography events.
Offer private areas for new mothers
As explained in this article by Pacific Prime Hong Kong, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, especially for women who have breastfed for over a year. For instance, an international study of almost 37,000 breast cancer cases published in the Annals of Oncology in 2015 found a 20% reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer among women who breastfed.
The reason behind this still remains unknown. Some suggest that lactation helps get rid of cells with damaged DNA, which may contribute to cancer. Another theory points out that women who breastfeed have fewer menstrual cycles, which result in lower estrogen levels. Other researchers advocate that breastfeeding promotes cancer-resistant breast cells.
Nonetheless, many female employees choose not to breastfeed due to a lack of adequate breastfeeding facilities in the workplace. Employers can take the lead and build a supportive working environment for new mothers by letting them express milk during a paid break, or even creating a private lactation room with a sink and a fridge.
Promote a healthy lifestyle
Obesity is well-known for its negative impact on health. According to the National Cancer Institute, obese postmenopausal women have a 20 to 40 percent increased risk of developing breast cancer than those of a healthy weight. As such, weight management is another pivotal element in breast cancer prevention.
Employers can partake in a broad spectrum of worksite wellness efforts, such as offering healthier vending machine snack choices, providing physical activity equipment, purchasing height-adjustable standing desks, and allowing employees to have walking meetings.
Furthermore, businesses may arrange exercise or gym classes and engage in fundraising activities for breast cancer patients. This way, you are not only blending breast cancer awareness in work events, but also fostering employee interaction and building stronger teamwork.
Support breast cancer patients and survivors
Women who have survived breast cancer or are currently undergoing treatment may not be able to regain their full working capacity in a short time. But the understanding and compassion of employers and coworkers are definitely beneficial to their recovery. There are many ways companies can show their support, such as arranging ‘welcome-back’ activities, allowing flexible hours to accommodate their medical appointments and recuperation, restructuring job positions, and devising a work-from-home policy for these returnees.
How will promoting breast cancer awareness affect my premiums?
Early diagnosis of breast cancer not only promotes a higher survival rate but also reduces the medical cost of insurers and insurance premiums for employers. This is because the cost of treating earlier stages of breast cancer is much less than treating later stages. A 2016 study found that the average patient costs between stages I/II versus stage IV breast cancer can have a difference of up to USD 52,561. When there is a smaller amount of claims made, the insurers are less likely to adjust the premiums of your employees’ plan during the annual policy renewal period.
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