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Think pink: Breast cancer awareness in the workplace

Fast facts about breast cancer.

*This article was updated on October 10, 2019.

Warm coffee fills your favorite mug, pumpkin decorations are piled high at your desk, and your favorite cozy sweaters are in rotation.

Fall is officially here.

Seasons change, sure — but breast cancer awareness, education and support for your employees shouldn’t, especially since breast cancer impacts millions of individuals.

Recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month in your workplace

According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, there will be an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer External Site and 41,760 deaths in 2019 alone.

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October, the official month for breast cancer awareness, is a great time to educate and communicate with your employees. It's also a great time to rally around and support employees who may be going through treatment or those who are survivors of breast cancer.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew I had to share this journey with my team — especially so they felt compelled to check in on their own health and the importance of developing a personal relationship with their doctor,” said Marci Chickering, chief human resources officer at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. “I also received all the positive energy, prayers and support from my team during this time — making it less stressful to be away from work.”

Breast cancer fast facts

See image description

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S.

39 percent decline in deaths due to early detection and treatment.

1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

Every 2 minutes one woman in the U.S. is diagnosed with breast cancer.

Source: Susan G. Komen Foundation

Five powerhouse benefits to help employees with breast cancer

When it comes to facing a breast cancer diagnosis, or fighting through treatment, consider these five benefits to help employees feel supported, empowered and productive in their day-to-day routines.

  1. Integrated medical and pharmacy benefit solution.

    When your workplace combines medical and pharmacy benefits together, you can gather constructive insights into care coordination while lowering medical costs without raising pharmacy spending. This holistic approach to your employee health care benefits can result in lower emergency room visits, lower hospitalization events and lower medical costs for your employees.
  2. Employee assistance program (EAP).

    Providing an employee assistance program External Site can help your employees address issues that affect them at work or home. For example, if an employee is going through treatment for breast cancer, they can get support in reducing planned (or unplanned) absences, facilitated and safe return-to-work aid, and solutions for improving productivity or engagement.
  3. Advanced Care Nurses.

    At Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, our Advanced Care Nurse program uses a team of clinically trained professionals to assist your employees’ unique health needs. If an employee with breast cancer doesn’t receive adequate support for their condition, they will tend to have more health care-related costs and frequent trips to the doctor.
  4. Flexible schedules.

    Between doctor’s appointments, treatments and not feeling 100 percent every day — employees fighting breast cancer are likely to be away from work more than usual. Allowing for flexible scheduling — whether it be coming in late or working from home — can take added stress or pressure off employees working through an already difficult time.

“Offering flexible scheduling made all the difference,” said Melody Sutton, Wellmark employee. “I would take my laptop and work during chemo treatments or from home when I wasn’t feeling 100 percent. Another added perk was having wellness rooms available — which allowed for me to sit in a quiet, dark room for 10-15 minutes when I wasn’t feeling the best.”

  1. myWellmark®.

    When your employees register for myWellmark, they can make informed decisions by locating in-network doctors and hospitals, estimating costs and care for services and procedures, and keep track of claim details.

“myWellmark was always there for when I had questions surrounding breast cancer and health insurance. If I didn’t feel like talking on the phone, I would simply email my questions or concerns and get a response right way,” said Marci Chickering. “myWellmark also allowed me to look at costs of treatments and review any EOBs within the touch of a button.”

What you might not know about breast cancer and your employees

Did you know the African American women in your workplace have a higher risk of dying from breast cancer? Experts with the American College of Radiology (ACR®) advise that all women — especially African American women — be evaluated for breast cancer no later than the age of 30. That way, their risk can be identified, and they can benefit from supplemental screenings.

Take Wellmark member Lisa Ambrose’s story Opens in a new window for example. Ambrose went to her doctor regularly, maintained good health and had regular mammograms — she never felt a reason to worry about breast cancer. Until she noticed a hard lump in October of 2016 that she couldn’t ignore. With the personal relationship Lisa developed with her doctor, she knew right away to call and set up an appointment with her doctor.

How to keep breast cancer awareness at the forefront of your workplace

Breast Cancer Awareness Month may be in October, but it shouldn’t stop there when it comes to educating and informing your employees on the importance of prevention and self-detection. Breast cancer can impact anyone, at any time, throughout the year.

Consider these simple ideas to get your workplace to ‘think pink’ year-round.

    1. Educate employees about the importance of preventive care and being proactive about their breast health throughout the year. These articles from BlueSM online are ready to share with your employees. Health plan hero status: achieved.
    1. Encourage employees to develop a personal relationship with their primary care provider (PCP) to begin the conversations about regular breast cancer screenings they may need.
    2. Promote healthy habits within your workplace to prevent or reduce the risk External Site of breast cancer.
    3. Respond appropriately when it comes to an employee who hears unfortunate news. Cancer affects both women and men — regardless of ethnicity. This means it's possible that one of your employees may receive a cancer diagnosis within their lifetime. As an employer, your biggest question should be: How can I provide the support my employee needs to fight cancer?

    Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative or email us at Send Email.