World Cancer Day takes place on 4 February 2022. Employers are now aware that screening is a vital element in more positive outcomes for cancer patients. Cancer screening has become a widespread part of the health and wellbeing offering but Towergate Health & Protection is suggesting employers now go one step further and screen by risk.

“Employee benefits in general are of course often related to an employee’s grade within the company. For health and wellbeing support, however, there is more to consider than job title alone,” says Debra Clark, head of specialist consulting at Towergate Health & Protection. “We encourage employers to carry out a cancer risk assessment on all staff and to make decisions on screening needs from there.”

Cancer risk assessment surveys

There is growing evidence that by targeting screening at those deemed as higher risk a greater proportion of cancers can be detected, and more aggressive cancer can be diagnosed at an earlier stage.

Of course, the ideal would be to screen all staff for all cancers but this is just not always possible. The alternative is to run a risk assessment questionnaire first. A simple survey can determine those who are higher risk, and they can then be offered screening for the relevant cancers. Those who are low risk can be educated about the risks, signs and symptoms of common cancers.

Early diagnosis

The aim of risk assessment questionnaires, screening, and education programmes is to try to enable cancer to be diagnosed early. The earlier a cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat, with less invasive methods, and the better the outcome is likely to be.

Lifestyle factors

The risk factors for cancer are hugely affected by lifestyle. Indeed, studies show that 80% of cancers are impacted by lifestyle factors. The preventability of many cancers is something everyone should bear in mind. The important lifestyle factors that affect the incidence and mortality rates of cancer include smoking, alcohol, diet, and obesity.

Education programmes

For all employees, regardless of their age or gender, it is crucial to also provide education about cancer. This can come in many forms, from posters to webinars. Communications should centre around making people aware of the risk factors, signs and symptoms of cancer, so that they can keep a check on their personal health from an informed perspective.

Debra Clark says: “There are four basic things for employers to consider regarding cancer. Know the risk – raise awareness of what increases the risk category and preferably provide a professional risk assessment. Lower the risk – encourage employees to look at lifestyle factors and make changes. Provide screening – especially for those in any of the higher risk categories. Provide education – ensure employees know what to look for as the signs and symptoms of cancer. These are all things that can be implemented very cost-effectively as part of a health and wellbeing programme, and all will have enormous benefit.”