How Employers Can Promote Cancer Screenings

Among the thousands of statistics released by the American Cancer Society in its Cancer Facts & Figures 2020 publication, here’s one that’s perhaps most hopeful: of the predicted 1.8 million new cancer cases in 2020, it is estimated that 42% can be prevented. How?

One way is by understanding and managing risk factors, the basics of which aren’t rocket science—make good lifestyle choices, maintain a healthy diet and stay physically active.

Another way is by getting appropriate cancer screenings.

Few of us fully understand that routine screening tests for a range of cancers help to pre-diagnose (should we say prevent instead of pre-diagnose) some cancers or identify cancer at the earliest stages, when it is much more likely to be (delete – prevented or) cured.

Why is this important to employers?

While the cancer death rate has been steadily declining over the past two decades, cancer treatment accounts for about 12 percent of U.S. employers’ total medical costs. The American Cancer Society estimates that total cost of cancer in health care expenses and lost productivity is more than $180 billion a year (Nov. 2019, Delivering Value in Cancer Care: The Employer Perspective, Northeast Business Group on Health).

So, it is imperative that employers pay attention to the findings of a study conducted by The Economist: if employers want to reduce cancer-related costs—and provide an environment that attracts and retains talented staff—they need to develop a holistic approach to managing cancer, which should begin with talking about and encouraging prevention and early detection through screenings.

Why is this important to your employees?

Helping employees remain cancer free contributes significantly to their quality of life, reduced work absences, improved productivity and general satisfaction.

Sounds good, right? But here’s the problem: research has found that workplace stigma is negatively associated with cancer screening uptake, and it can lead to an employee’s feelings of isolation, social rejection, financial insecurity and internalized shame and result in job-related hiring discrimination, harassment, job reassignment, job loss and limited career advancement.

Because most people spend a majority of their waking hours at work, employers can play a vital role in promoting health and preventing disease including cancer. The Center for Cancer Prevention and Control, an agency within the Maryland Department of Health offers the following actions to increase cancer screenings:

  1. Examine health insurance coverage for recommended screenings.
  2. Create and implement supportive policies to encourage cancer screenings.
  3. Educate and communicate to your employees the importance of cancer screenings.
  4. Find local community resources and assistance.

One-time projects will likely not have a lasting effect on cancer screening rates in your workplace, the agency says. A comprehensive, on-going program supported by health plan coverage and policies that is part of a broader wellness program will have a bigger impact. Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Work Stride  program is an employee benefit program that includes an oncology nurse navigator and a comprehensive web site to educate, guide and support your employees and managers, from cancer screening and risk reduction, to dealing with diagnosis, treatment, care giving and survivorship.

One step you can take right now to inform your workforce about the importance of cancer screening is to download the infographic: 5 Reasons to Get Your Cancer Screening. Click to download.

 

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