Forget the big C – support colleagues with cancer


With new numbers showing that more than 300,000 people have missed cancer check-ups since the pandemic began[1], it has never been more important for managers to help their employees identify the signs and symptoms of the disease.

Cancer is quickly becoming another lockout expense. If no urgent action is taken, it will have a huge impact on the current and future workforce. NHS England data shows a 16% decrease in urgent cancer referrals between March last year, when the lockdown began, and January this year.

This is worrying because if you have cancer you need to know about it quickly. Early diagnosis can reduce the need for invasive surgery, radiation and chemotherapy – and there is now very real potential for survival rates to decline for the first time in decades.

The pandemic has positively changed the way companies prioritize the health of their employees. However, with so many people missing any cancer checkups, employers now have an important role to play in raising awareness of company health insurance benefits and ensuring employees are diagnosed as early as possible.

The legacy of innovation as a result of the pandemic should help. An important development in healthcare is the expansion of remote care services to speak from home to general practitioners, nurses, and specialist counselors. At Bupa, we’ve stepped up remote diagnostics, including home testing for skin cancer and expanding home chemotherapy for some patients. These help employees to find care quickly, safely and tailored to their lives.

Mental health effects

Cancer not only affects your physical health – it can affect your mental health too. A diagnosis of cancer is life changing and understandably can have a significant impact on a person’s emotional wellbeing that can last long after treatment is stopped.

New research by Maggie’s National Cancer Aid has shown that three out of five people who have or have had cancer find the mental challenge harder to manage than physical treatment and side effects.

As a result, we see leading organizations now offering a more holistic approach that takes into account the whole person, not just cancer treatment – by providing occupational health, mental and emotional support, and access to clinical care.

Programs like these help people get back on their feet and keep working if they want. For many people, this can be very helpful both financially and socially. Research from Macmillan Cancer Support shows that 85% of people who are employed when diagnosed say it is important to keep working.

Bupa health insurance customers have access to our access Living well with cancer Program that supports people through the various stages of cancer It is a valuable part of our insurance coverage and offers physical, social, financial and emotional support.

As life slowly returns to normal, employers and health insurers must work together to restore priority to early detection and support at every stage of cancer treatment.

Tips to help people on their cancer journey

Encourage controls

Early detection significantly increases your chances of surviving cancer. Giving your employees access to regular tests or checkups can help increase employee engagement by promoting these benefits.

Many companies have expanded and developed their health and wellbeing engagement programs in response to the pandemic. Employers have a real chance of encouraging people to get regular checkups and get help right away if they notice symptoms that could be cancer.

Be flexible

It’s important for people to feel that they can devote time to screening or treatment if necessary. If symptoms are treated quickly, it can mean less free time in the long run.

Working from home has resulted in many of us becoming better and better at balancing professional and personal priorities. It is important that this continues and that people have the confidence to take time for their health.

Support in reintegrating a colleague after suffering from cancer

It is not uncommon for someone returning to work after suffering from cancer to have mixed feelings, from relief and excitement to returning to “everyday life”; worrying whether or not they will cope with it.

It is a good idea to get in touch with a colleague before returning to work to see any assistance they may need. Discuss whether they can return to their usual hours or whether changes are needed to allow them to return to work.

Empower and train your staff on the best way to support the person returning to work, whether it be just a friendly chat or providing more information about what that person has been through.


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