- Many cases of cancer are preventable: Therefore, it’s beneficial to promote healthy practices amongst your employees and offer initiatives that support overall employee wellbeing.
- Share reputable information: One of the best ways to raise awareness is to share accurate, up-to-date information about cancer. You can share this in a variety of ways including via email, posters or in-person discussions.
- Make employees aware of health benefits: Ensure that employees know about any workplace health benefits available to them and about how to access them.
One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, equating to around 1,000 people every day. Of those, 36% are of working age. This means that many people are navigating a diagnosis, treatment, and life beyond cancer while still in employment.
As an employer, raising awareness of cancer should form an important part of your overall people strategy. In doing so, you will be contributing to a culture of inclusion and support, and demonstrate that you value your employees and their wellbeing.
This guide from Perci Health provides information on how you can raise awareness of cancer in the workplace, including ways to highlight risk factors, encourage conversation, and how to support an employee who has been diagnosed with cancer.
Promote overall good health and wellbeing
A person’s risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics and exposure to risk factors. In the UK, around 4 in 10 cancer cases every year are preventable; that’s more than 135,000 every year.
The leading causes of preventable cancer include:
- Exposure to UV radiation
- Drinking alcohol
- Eating too little fibre
As an employer, you can highlight the main risk factors of cancer and encourage overall better employee health. There are many ways to do this:
- Educate employees on the risks factors of cancer
- Promote better healthy eating by providing snacks such as fruit, yoghurts, and nuts
- Offer workplace exercise opportunities or subsidised gym memberships
- Involve your workplace in quit smoking campaigns
- Use a cycle to work scheme
- Offer employee health screenings
- Provide standing desks or cycle chairs
Signpost employees to reliable, informative sources
When someone finds out they or a loved one has cancer, they are likely to have all sorts of questions about what the diagnosis means, however, it can be difficult to find accurate answers online. You can help your employees by directing them to reliable sources of information.
The NHS website is an excellent resource that has pages covering many different types of cancer. Numerous charities provide free information and support for cancer patients, their family and friends, and carers including:
Most types of cancer have a corresponding charity or organisation that provides information specific to that type of cancer including how it is diagnosed, its prognosis and treatment. Examples of such charities include:
- Blood Cancer UK
- Bone Cancer Research Trust
- Bowel Cancer UK
- Breast Cancer Now
- Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust
- Kidney Cancer UK
- Pancreatic Cancer UK
- Prostate Cancer UK
- Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
- Target Ovarian Cancer
Many of these organisations also provide details on further support that people can access, including online forums, in-person groups and talking therapies. Some charities also have resources such as booklets and educational pieces that workplaces can order or download.
You can also direct employees to your company cancer policy (if you have one), any relevant policies about sickness absence or sick pay, or general information about cancer and employment laws. This can reduce the anxiety that employees with cancer may feel about their job stability and how they can manage work and treatment.
Host events and training
87% of line managers say they have not been given any training on how to support people with long-term conditions including cancer. As an employer, you can help foster a more supportive, inclusive work environment by organising cancer awareness training for management and HR staff.
There are organisations that can deliver such training such as Cancer Research’s Cancer Awareness in the Workplace programme or Macmillan at Work’s training and resources.In addition, you can provide training to employees on how to support a coworker with cancer, so that all staff are well-equipped to have effective, supportive conversations about cancer.
Informing employees about the early signs and symptoms of cancer is also valuable. Some cancer symptoms can be difficult to talk about, so opening up a conversation about them can help your workforce recognise the importance of early detection and seeking medical advice, even if they feel embarrassed.
Engaging in national and local cancer events at work can not only help raise money for cancer charities but can also help to encourage meaningful conversation about the disease. Examples of such events include:
- Macmillan coffee morning
- Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life
- Breast Cancer Awareness Month
- Brave the Shave
Encourage staff to use health benefits
If your workplace provides any health benefits such as insurance, mental health support, diagnostic care or doctor’s visits, ensure you’re encouraging employees to use them.
Often, employees under utilise health and wellbeing incentives because they aren’t aware of their entitlement to them, or they don’t know how to access them. Make sure employees know about all the benefits available to them and provide straightforward guidance on how they can make use of this support. This could be a part of your employee onboarding process, or you could send regular employee emails highlighting the incentives and benefits on offer.
Health benefits can enable employees to detect cancer symptoms and get a diagnosis as early as possible. What’s more, mental health services can help employees who have been diagnosed with cancer or those who have a loved one with cancer, by providing them with a safe and confidential space to talk about how they feel.
If you want to find other ways to raise awareness and support your employees with cancer, Perci Health can help. We offer specialist cancer support for employees via our virtual care clinic. Your staff and colleagues can gain quick access to our team of registered cancer support professionals, as well as personalised programmes and specialist cancer nurse support. Get in touch to book a demo.