Digital health app, Peppy wants employers to recognise the important role they can play in offering early diagnosis and preventative care for cancer. In practice this means helping employees to recognise red flags when symptoms need to be investigated, signposting to screening programmes, and encouraging employees to improve their lifestyle in order to prevent cancer from developing in the first place.
Expert data also supports the case for offering workplace support:
- According to Cancer Research UK1, almost half of cancer cases are diagnosed at stages three and four.
- UK data from the World Cancer Research Fund2 highlights that ‘around 40 per cent of cancers are associated with modifiable risk factors’ i.e. lifestyle choices/changes.
Kathy Abernethy, Chief Nursing Officer and Director of Menopause Services, at Peppy said: “Absolute prevention is, of course, the holy grail which is where changes in lifestyle can be helpful but early detection is also in the best interests of employers and employees as treatment at this stage may be less invasive, faster and increase rates of survival.”
Early diagnosis support
Cancer support doesn’t necessarily need to be badged as such. Many employees will find they offer early diagnosis support via their employee benefits aimed at treating other conditions or issues. When employees have access to specialist clinical support, these practitioners can also highlight any unusual symptoms or issues and refer employees either on to other experts accessible via their benefits package, or help them navigate the NHS or private routes to diagnosis and treatment.
For example, an employee presenting with symptoms of menopause, such as heavy or irregular periods, may believe that a change in hormones is the culprit. However, in some situations, a clinical specialist may advise that further investigation or tests are required to consider other catalysts, including cancer.
Similarly, fertility support may lead to investigations for gynaecological cancers, and men’s health support could lead to further checks on urological cancers such as prostate cancer, the most prevalent cancer amongst men.
Kathy Abernethy continued: “The early symptoms of cancer are not always obvious to a non-medical person and so many employees may ignore some issues or not be aware that they could be indicative of something more serious. Having access to a clinical practitioner who has the time to consider the individual’s health as a whole is invaluable in preventing cancer.”
Case study: ongoing support
When a cancer is diagnosed via workplace support such as Peppy, the individual employee can be supported throughout their entire journey and offered one-to-one, personalised support in parallel to NHS services or private healthcare. This continuity of care is important and enables the employee to better understand their options, treatment and other ongoing concerns.
As well as receiving clinical support from experts, many employee benefits contain support to help staff make effective lifestyle choices. Support to help employees lose weight, make changes to their diet, increase their exercise regime, reduce or stop drinking and smoking, are also core to preventing cancer.
Kathy Abernethy concluded: “Many employees can take their future in to their own hands and make lifestyle changes that can mitigate the risk of cancer.
“Employers can also play a proactive role by offering access to clinical practitioners who can support the health of staff in a holistic way, both lifestyle, as well as suggesting further medical investigations for cancer if necessary.”