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Back to basics... Employee cancer screening

Our back to basics series brings you top tips from industry experts on the bread and butter areas of HR

Why does it matter?

352,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK and the prevalence of the disease has huge implications for employers. As more people are living with and surviving cancer than ever it’s important to have an effective programme in place to support them. The provision of cancer screening in the workplace is an efficient and effective method of tackling the disease. It can help spot cancers at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be successful and the chances of survival greater.


Offer cancer screening as part of your workplace health and wellbeing programme. Some screenings have been developed to detect cancer early, including the cervical and breast cancer programmes.

Encourage staff to take advantage of cancer screening and provide education around the risk factors and what steps can be taken to mitigate them. With 46% of cancers being diagnosed at an advanced stage, according to Cancer Research UK, greater focus on innovative and faster screening and diagnostics could increase instances of early cancer detection and help to improve survival rates.

Introduce awareness campaigns using presentations, employee literature and webinars to help educate staff on common cancer symptoms and support early detection.

Ensure you offer a balanced programme of emotional support and clinical expertise for staff who are going through cancer treatment. This can include everything from providing screening, to allowing time off for medical appointments and organising a phased return to work.

Encourage and support a healthy lifestyle within the workplace including weight management, regular physical exercise and help to quit smoking.

Further reading

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Underestimate the importance of cancer screening. Screening in the workplace is an efficient and effective method of tackling cancer; with the potential to catch a significant number of cases at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be successful.

Assume staff are knowledgeable about screening. Ensure employees have easy access to information and expert advice.

Treat a colleague differently following a cancer diagnosis. Often people with cancer feel they must reassure everyone else and in turn don’t get the support they need. Being supportive of a worker affected by cancer will make a huge difference to them as they go through this difficult time, and employers are well-placed to help reduce their anxiety and give them the confidence to cope at work.

Assume a cancer diagnosis means the person wishes to take time off work immediately. Work is important for many people with cancer. Going to work can provide a sense of normality and can also help with recovery.

Underestimate your role in your colleague’s journey with cancer – managers and employers play an important part in supporting employees with cancer.

Peter Mills is associate medical director of Cigna Europe