Early detection of cancers can significantly increase survival rates. However, COVID-19 has caused disruption to people receiving cancer diagnosis and management.
But employers could help by embracing the concept of easy access to cancer screening. If an employee presents symptoms, early detection through an employer would positively support their health and wellbeing.
COVID-19 Has Impacted Cancer Screenings And Diagnoses
According to research by Annals of Oncology in 2020, a 3-month delay to surgery across all stage 1 to 3 cancers is estimated to cause over 4,700 deaths per year in England alone. With over three million people missing routine cancer screening appointments in the country during the pandemic, there is now a huge backlog in cancer screening, diagnoses, and treatment. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a 6.8% increase in the diagnosis of terminal, stage 4 cancer.
Early detection is so important for those with cancer as if it’s detected in its earliest stages, it can increase survival rates. For example, prostate cancer is around 90% curable if it’s found in its early stages. Conversely, survival rates of lung cancer are low because it is usually detected late.
Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health & Protection says: “Some cancers do not show symptoms until they are in advanced stages. These include bowel, lung, and prostate cancer.
“Screening is vital in detecting these cancers early, which then vastly increases the chances of survival and often means that treatment is less severe and more effective,” he continues. “In short, quicker diagnoses equals better health outcomes.”
For women, 55,000 are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK. Of these, 23% are preventable by screening and risk reduction. Cervical cancer is also very treatable if detected in its earliest stages but one in four women fail to attend NHS cervical screening. This increases to one in three women aged 25 to 29 years.
With skin cancer, especially malignant mole or melanoma, the earlier it is detected, the better the outcome.
How Can Employers Help With Early Cancer Detection?
There are seven screening tests for the six most common cancers in the UK—bowel, skin, cervical, lung, breast and prostate. These are:
- Bowel cancer: At-home sample test kit. Results within five days
- Skin cancer: Local clinic visit for a simple skin examination. Results within five days
- Cervical cancer (HPV): At-home sample test kit. Results within five days
- Lung cancer: At-home sample test kit. Results within two weeks
- Breast cancer: Local clinic visit for a mammogram. Results within three to four weeks
- Breast cancer risk: At-home DNA saliva test kit. Results within eight weeks
- Prostate cancer: At-home finger-prick test. Results within one week
Employers can help to tackle the cancer screening backlog. Tests are available as one-off standalone checks, without any attachment to private medical insurance. These can also be discounted to employers which can make them even more accessible. Employers are, therefore, in a position to be able to offer an invaluable employee benefit to staff, which will be a huge support to health and wellbeing. It also can reduce anxiety around any cancer concerns and could prove a vital preventative measure.
Early Detection Also Helps Education and Awareness Around Cancer Risks
Offering screening also has a part to play in raising awareness of cancer and its contributing factors, says Cancer Research. Of all cancers diagnosed, 40% are attributed to lifestyle and environmental factors and 42% are preventable.
Education, awareness, and prevention are key to reducing cancer risk. Offering screening helps to start the conversation around cancer risk and many of the tests are accompanied by information and advice to employees on how they can take preventative measures and lifestyle choices to minimise the risk.
Brett Hill concludes: “So many cancers are completely curable if caught early. With screening so simple, cost-effective, easily accessed, and successful, this really should be at the top of the list for employers to offer to their staff.”
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