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Breast Cancer Awareness in the Workplace

Cropped image of group of young multiracial woman with pink ribbons are struggling against breast cancer. Breast cancer awareness concept.

Quick look: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to come together and become informed about the disease and raise funds for its prevention, treatment, and cure. Here are several breast cancer awareness activities for the workplace and how to support employees by providing a comprehensive benefits package.

Breast cancer affects hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, and while treatment has improved for the disease, there is still no cure.

Let’s explore how small- and medium-sized business (SMB) employers can promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October and how the right employee benefits package can support patients, survivors, and those with affected loved ones all year.

About Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month occurs each October and is an international movement to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer and fundraise for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure.

Established in 1985, Breast Cancer Awareness Month was founded by the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical branch of Imperial Chemical Industries (now a part of AstraZeneca, which produces several anti-breast cancer medications). The pink ribbon commonly associated with the campaign was first introduced in 1992 by Estée Lauder cosmetics.

Breast cancer fast facts

Before we review how employers can raise awareness of breast cancer and support their affected employees, it’s important to understand more about the disease.

Consider the following facts, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.:

  • In 2022, an estimated 287,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women.
  • 1 in 8 U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives.
  • Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women (with skin cancer being the first).
  • There are nearly 4 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.
  • Over 43,000 women are expected to pass away from breast cancer this year. However, death rates have declined since 1990 due to increased awareness, screening and early detection improvements, and treatment advancements.
  • Breast cancer can affect men, too. In 2022, over 2,700 men will be diagnosed with the disease.

Cancer’s impact on healthcare

Cancer significantly impacts healthcare spending in the U.S. According to the Business Group on Health’s new research, “2023 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey,” cancer is now the number-one driver of large employers’ healthcare costs.

The survey, which polled 135 employers across various industries covering 18 million Americans, found that cancer has surpassed musculoskeletal conditions and cardiovascular disease in terms of cost creation (all three were the biggest cost drivers in 2021).

Some of this increase may be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey revealed that 13% of employers have experienced more employees being diagnosed with late-stage cancers, and over 40% expect an increase due to pandemic-related delays in receiving care.

What SMB employers can do

Breast cancer is an issue that impacts many employees and their loved ones. There are several ways employers can help spread awareness in the workplace and support the unique needs of those facing this disease by providing a comprehensive benefits package and a flexible culture.

Breast cancer awareness activities for the workplace

There are many ways to highlight Breast Cancer Awareness Month within your organization, whether your company operates in-person, on a hybrid schedule, or remote:

  • Wear pink: Encourage employees to wear pink throughout the month—the color honors survivors, those lost to the disease, and the progress being made toward a cure.
  • Distribute giveaways: Consider giving out pink bracelets, stickers, buttons, or T-shirts.
  • Share ways to give back: Inform your staff about which organizations they can reference to learn more, donate, or volunteer (e.g., American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, National Breast Cancer Foundation, Susan G. Komen).
  • Educate employees: Communicate information with employees about breast health and early detection, how to support breast cancer patients and survivors, and relevant benefits.
  • Fundraise: Raise money to donate to research organizations by selling pink company merchandise, hosting a bake sale, etc.

Provide helpful benefits

The right employee benefits can deliver much-needed support. Some key benefits to consider offering your workers include:

  • Comprehensive healthcare coverage: When people face unaffordable medical expenses, they are less likely to get the help they need, further exasperating their condition (and driving overall healthcare costs). Offering employees competitively priced health insurance plans that cover preventive treatment is key to staying ahead of potential medical concerns.
  • An Employee Assistance Program (EAP): Battling cancer or advocating a friend or family member who is undoubtedly comes with stress and anxiety. An EAP can allow employees to access support groups, a network counselor, and other community resources (for free).
  • A cancer support program: A voluntary program that cares for workers and their loved ones who may be battling cancer can be a valuable benefit. A program like this can include:
    • Real-time support from oncology nurses
    • Preventive and post-diagnosis DNA testing
    • A portal to house medical records, clinical trial information, expenses, and financial aid opportunities

Focus on flexibility

A flexible and understanding work environment is key when battling breast cancer or supporting a loved one who is. Patients will likely have many doctor appointments and need to rest, and even after treatment ends, appointments can be as often as every three months.

Employers can accommodate these needs by offering workers the option to reduce their hours, work from home as needed, or switch to a part-time or flextime schedule.

A partnership you can count on

Advocating for employees affected by cancer can be complicated for SMBs who may lack access to affordable and wide-ranging benefits. However, a partnership with a professional employer organization (PEO) can enable these organizations to equip their workers with the care they need at a better price.

A PEO, like ExtensisHR, leverages its economies of scale to offer SMBs Fortune 500-level benefits packages at a competitive price. These benefits include robust health plans, a voluntary cancer support program, access to an EAP, and more.

ExtensisHR’s dedicated HR Managers can also collaborate with SMB leaders to help them create policies on fundraising, honorable holidays, and more.

Contact the professionals at ExtensisHR to get started on boosting your company’s breast cancer support initiatives this October and beyond.

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