"As nausea is an incredibly common symptom of many different conditions, both benign and serious, it's easy to attribute a bout with nausea with something more common like food poisoning, infection, motion sickness or overeating," says Palka. "If your nausea is ongoing or is accompanied by persistent vomiting or any of the other signs of liver cancer, it could be a sign of a liver problem and you should call your primary care doctor immediately.
Signs of Cancer Women Should Never Ignore by Heather Newgen
A recent article on "Eat this, Not that!" sited CancerBridge's own Andrea Palka in an article "Signs of Cancer Women Should Never Ignore," by Heather Newgen:
Andrea Palka, BSN, RN, OCN and nursing manager from CancerBridge says, "According to the American Cancer Society, at least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers in the U.S. are linked to modifiable risk factors. This means that roughly 805,600 cases in 2022 were potentially avoidable. The pandemic had a potentially devastating effect on preventative health, specifically cancer. The National Cancer Institute has shared that the pandemic initially led to sharp decreases in recommended cancer screening tests, which could mean that some early cancers may have gone undetected. It's also led to the 'covibesity' phenomenon – the widespread rapid weight gain in response to behavioral, psychosocial and environmental changes – which could increase the risk of cancer. While the long-term outcomes of delayed screenings won't become clear for years, this "could mean that 'missed' cancers might be larger and more advanced when they were ultimately detected."
Employer support – why it matters to employees with cancer
A cancer diagnosis can quickly turn someone’s life upside down, impacting everything from the family room to the boardroom. The effect of cancer in the workforce is huge – in fact, one in three adults in America is diagnosed with cancer. This means that potentially a third of your workforce could find themselves on the receiving end of a cancer diagnosis or could become a caregiver to someone else.
Given both the personal and financial ramifications of cancer on a workforce, your HR team has the potential to become a critical point of contact for connecting employees with the support they need. According to the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 81% of employees with cancer crave emotional support from their employer, while 85% would like practical support. And yet, nearly half of all employers do not provide employee cancer support benefits.
Here are a few ways you can offer workplace support for employees with cancer:
Assess your benefits package. With 200 types of cancer, no two cancer experiences are the same. Navigating a diagnosis and understanding the prognosis can be overwhelming for the patient and their families. By providing a service that supports employees as they embark on their treatment plan, you can provide meaningful support during a time of uncertainty. As an extension of your benefits package, CancerBridge offers employees with immediate, one-on-one personalized cancer support, expertise and guidance, helping to ease the fear of the unknown so people feel empowered to make the best decisions for themselves and their health.
Lead with empathy. A cancer diagnosis – no matter the type or stage – is devastating for employees and their families. While it’s important to discuss the implications of the diagnosis on the employee’s role, it’s even more important to remember that at the heart of this is a human being who is likely scared and overwhelmed. Always lead with empathy, demonstrating you care deeply about the person, their family and their health.
Respond quickly. While employees aren’t legally required to disclose a cancer diagnosis to their employer, when they do, it’s important to act quickly so they know right away what benefits are available to them. Whether it’s helping them understand medical benefits, connecting them with a service like CancerBridge to support them throughout the experience, or simply helping them understand the various types of medical leave options they have available. One of the most agonizing aspects of a cancer diagnosis is waiting, so swift communication on your part goes a long way.
Don’t stop there. When treatment stops, an employee’s cancer experience doesn’t. It’s important to support an employee for ongoing cancer prevention after treatment, including follow-up appointments, more frequent screenings, or long-term side effects that could influence their work (e.g., fatigue, memory loss). As their body heals from treatment, it’s crucial to also acknowledge the mental and emotional consequences the event has had on them. These side effects usually surface once physical treatment is complete. Flexibility, empathy, and communication are key as they navigate the next steps.
People employed full time spend a third of their lives at work. So, their work family – and the support they receive – becomes of critical importance. As your partner, CancerBridge is an innovative way for employers to show employees and their immediate family members that they care about their health and wellbeing.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a terrifying experience. Even if the test results and diagnosis are clear, it’s natural to question whether the provider’s recommended treatment plan is the best path forward.
As an employer, you can offer meaningful support to an employee during that process.
When should someone explore a second opinion?
There is a myriad of reasons why someone may feel compelled to get a cancer treatment second opinion, which is not uncommon. In some cases, the objective is to reiterate the chosen treatment plan is endorsed by another doctor, rather than change course completely. Cancer patients seeking a second opinion might want another perspective from a specialist, or they might not feel a connection with their doctor. The treatment plan typically depends on an array of variables beyond the cancer diagnosis itself. For example, if a patient has other preexisting conditions or health concerns, that could influence their treatment plan. Also, each doctor or hospital has access to different resources and equipment. In more serious cases, someone might just want to make sure they’ve explored all options before going down the path of an aggressive treatment plan.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to offer workplace support for employees with cancer. When an employee receives a second opinion, they are empowered to make more informed decisions about their treatment plan and what’s ultimately best for themselves and their family.
As an employer, what is your role in supporting an employee’s decision to get a second opinion?
The National Comprehensive Care Network (NCCN) has created a helpful employer toolkit that provides guiding principles for promoting high-quality cancer care among your employees. One of the most important guiding principles outlined in the toolkit is to promote the most appropriate, value-based use of healthcare resources. This includes encouraging employees to get a second opinion “before any surgery, starting a new line of therapy, or beginning radiation treatment,” as appropriate.
To make that possible for employees who are on your company’s medical plan, employers should require insurance carriers to cover at least one second opinion. Given the nuances between different types of cancers, it’s important that this second opinion is delivered by a major cancer center specializing in that employee’s specific type of cancer. You should also consider a medical plan that provides coverage for “supplemental diagnostics, genetic testing, genomic testing, and other services required for giving a sound opinion.”
How can you go about getting a second opinion?
One of the biggest barriers to people seeking a second opinion is fearing how their doctor will react. In fact, second opinions are common, encouraged, and expected. The American Cancer Society provides some helpful prompts for bridging that conversation with your doctor. Click here for some sample talking points.
The process of getting a second opinion can feel overwhelming – understanding what to expect, determining where to go, making sense of the results and even, in some cases, reconciling when the first and second opinions disagree. As your partner, CancerBridge can be your employee’s first point of contact to help guide them through the process, making sense of complicated information during a difficult time.
One in three adults in America is diagnosed with cancer. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, “45 percent of people diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. are ages 20-64 years, the traditional working age.” This means one third of your workforce could theoretically be diagnosed with cancer or become a caregiver for a cancer patient.
Beyond the physical and mental toll on a cancer patient and their loved ones, cancer comes with a huge financial burden – and not just for the patient. Let’s break it down a bit.
How much does a cancer diagnosis cost?
Cancer is a multi-billion dollar industry and the cost of cancer-related health care is projected to grow to $246 billion by 2030 – an increase of 34 percent since 2015. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey found that the costs for cancer are felt by everyone – a cancer patient and their family; employers; insurance companies; and taxpayer funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Patient out-of-pocket costs represent 5 percent of the total expenditure (about $5.6 billion), whereas private insurance accounts for 49 percent.
While costs vary from patient to patient, there are “three primary approaches to treating cancer, including surgery, radiation and pharmacological therapy (which includes chemotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy and immunotherapy).” Someone diagnosed with cancer could receive a combination of any or all of these, depending on the treatment plan, but that’s just the beginning. Cancer patients often need additional support through everything from stem cell transplants and blood transfusions to rehabilitative therapy, nutrition counseling, and mental health support.
Costs of cancer continue even after treatment is complete
It’s important for employers to understand that even after someone goes through surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, the cancer experience doesn’t end there. Cancer survivors are often treated for months – if not years – afterward and may deal with long-term side effects of treatment. These things could require additional support from specialist providers (e.g., rehabilitation therapists and psychotherapists) and continue for years.
The indirect costs of cancer
The cost of cancer goes beyond healthcare expenses – these “indirect costs” are just as significant and can contribute to what’s referred to as the “financial toxicity of cancer.” These indirect costs could include:
Transportation and lodging, particularly when receiving specialized treatment away from home
Lost wages or income if someone has to stop work temporarily or reduce their hours
Secondary effects, like fertility treatments, wigs for hair loss, or even special food
Caregiving costs for patients, whether for themselves or their family
Cancer is expensive, prevention is not
One of the best ways to reduce the financial impact of cancer is through reducing your risk before it occurs or catching it earlier on in the process when it’s easier to treat. As your partner, CancerBridge can provide guidance on screenings and preventative services that decrease major risk factors, like smoking, obesity, poor nutrition, dangerous sun exposure, and the like.
The Benefits of Routine Cancer Screenings For Employees
According to the American Cancer Society, at least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers in the U.S. are linked to modifiable risk factors. This means that roughly 805,600 cases in 2022 were potentially avoidable.
The pandemic had a potentially devastating effect on preventative health, specifically cancer. The National Cancer Institute has shared that the pandemic initially led to sharp decreases in recommended cancer screening tests, which could mean that some early cancers may have gone undetected. While the long-term outcomes of delayed screenings won’t become clear for years, this “could mean that ‘missed’ cancers might be larger and more advanced when they were ultimately detected.”
The impact of this is far-reaching, particularly as it relates to healthcare costs. PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) is projecting a 6.5% increase in medical costs this year due to higher utilization rates of consumers who put off care during COVID.
Prevention is our best defense in the fight against cancer, and regular screenings have the potential to save lives. Thankfully, it’s not too late to encourage employees to take preventative steps to managing their cancer risk. Here are a few things you can do as an employer.
Open the conversation. Research suggests that “workplace stigma is negatively associated with cancer screening uptake, and can lead to an employee’s feelings of isolation, social rejection, financial insecurity and internalized shame.” It’s important to talk openly about the importance of wellness, preventative care, and early detection through screenings. Don’t wait for an employee to ask, “Should I get screened for cancer?” Instead, bring up the conversation. CancerBridge can provide critical resources to help educate and empower your employees to take control of their health when it comes to cancer risk.
Evaluate your insurance plan. Employees will be more likely to get the appropriate screenings if they’re covered by your company’s medical plan. As you evaluate potential healthcare providers, ensure that cancer screening appointments are covered under the plan.
Educate employees about screenings. There are several types of cancers that can be found early through regular screenings, including breast, cervical, colorectal and lung cancers. As your partner, CancerBridge can be a trusted resource to help employees understand what screenings are appropriate based on their age, lifestyle, medical and family history, and provide guidance on what a routine cancer screening timeline would look like for them.
Promote healthier lifestyles. Certain risk factors - like smoking, obesity, and poor nutrition - can be mitigated by changes in lifestyle. As an employer, consider offering programming that promotes a healthier lifestyle. Some cancer-fighting strategies include bringing in a nutritionist for a quarterly lunch and learn, creating an employee walking group, offsetting the costs of fitness memberships or rolling out a smoking cessation program.
Cancer is expensive, prevention is not
One of the best ways to reduce the physical, emotional, and financial impact of cancer is through reducing your risk before it occurs or catching it earlier on in the process when it’s easier to treat. To learn more about how CancerBridge can help, schedule a consultation and learn how we can integrate with your current benefits package.