Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women worldwide. In 2010, it was estimated that 1.5 million people were diagnosed with the disease. With figures this high, many employees themselves or people they love may become afflicted with breast cancer. Employers can do their part in the fight against breast cancer by addressing awareness and prevention in their wellness programs.
Breast cancer symptoms
Breast tissue is made of lobes, lobules, ducts, and blood and lymph vessels. The lobes and ducts are essential in the body for the production of milk. Lymph vessels lead to lymph nodes, which help the body fight infections and diseases. Cancer can target any of these parts. The most common form of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, attacking the cells of the ducts.
In the early stages, breast cancer will often show no symptoms. As it progresses, the following symptoms may develop:
New lump in breast or underarm area
Thickening or swelling of the breast
Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
Pain, pulling, redness, discharge or flaking of nipple skin
Pain or change in size or shape of breast
The factors below will predispose women to a higher risk of breast cancer:
Being a Caucasian female
Menstruating at an early age
Mother or sister with breast cancer
Giving birth at an older age or never giving birth
Estrogen and progesterone hormone use
Personal history of breast cancer or benign breast disease
There are a few things women can do to lower their risk of cancer. Some of these include:
Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly
Talking to your doctor about early detection if you have a family history of breast cancer
Limiting alcohol consumption
Reviewing the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy
Wellness and breast cancer
Employers can help their employees with the fight against breast cancer by implementing breast cancer awareness initiatives. Some of these initiatives include:
Spreading the word about the facts – Run an annual breast cancer awareness campaign in the office. Include fun activities for your employees that will benefit breast cancer research.
Encourage good nutrition and exercise – Good nutrition and exercise is the foundation of healthy living. Be sure to offer your employees seminars on nutrition and exercise and encourage healthy foods at company meetings and events.
Support your local breast cancer foundation and employee’s afflicted friends and family –Have your office participate in local chapter walk-a-thons or donate as a company to your favourite breast cancer foundation. Participation will encourage employee teamwork, and benefit breast cancer research.
The bottom line
Breast cancer is a devastating disease for many employees and the ones they love. Employers can do their part in helping to fight against the disease by empowering their employees with facts on the risk and prevention of breast cancer. HR professionals can also help by implementing wellness initiatives that focus on better nutrition and exercise and participation in activities to support breast cancer foundations. It’s important to remember that every case of early detection is another life saved.