In hospital lobbies across the country, volunteers sell quilts and other crafts stitched with symbolically coloured ribbons. Pink for breast cancer, blue for colon cancer, yellow for bladder cancer—each ribbon conveying a message of hope for everyone who has been affected by the disease. The spectrum of colours also reminds us that cancer has a wide reach. In any given week, approximately 3,340 Canadians are diagnosed with some form of cancer; 40% of Canadian women and 45% of men will develop cancer during their lifetimes. More than 76,200 Canadians died from the disease last year. Almost one-third of new cancer cases and 18% of deaths will occur in the working-age population, i.e. adults aged 20 to 59 years.

With virtually every Canadian touched by cancer at some point in their lives, employers are increasingly recognizing the challenges of helping employees deal with this disease. Consider that the cost of employee absence due to illness, disability or personal or family responsibilities is approximately $8.6 billion annually, and cancer is the No. 3 reason for taking long-term disability. But with support, individuals dealing with cancer—whether as a patient, a family member or a caregiver—can remain productive members of the workforce.

Employers can also play a role in cancer prevention. Workplace health promotion programs—with components that might include education, cancer screening referral and lifestyle modification—offer huge potential to take advantage of the
fact that 50% of all cancers are preventable.

The half-day Employers Cancer Care Summit, held March 1, 2011, at the Sutton Place Hotel in Toronto, educated plan sponsors about cancer in the workplace. From personal stories of struggle and triumph to the latest in research, presenters offered their insights into workplace prevention programs, advancements in cancer treatments, return-to-work strategies and improving access to treatment and funding.

Read more coverage from the event:

Copyright © 2021 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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