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Cancer in the Workplace

Cancer Prevention, Screening and Management at Work

Cancer touches us all in one way or another - as a patient, coworker, friend, or family member. Your worksite has supports in place to help with cancer prevention, screening, and coping with cancer for yourself or for the care of loved ones. 

This campaign provides resources available to you, your worksite's most treasured asset. Below are ideas on how you can create a supportive worksite wellness environment that works toward cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship.

The good news about cancer:

  • Cervical cancer deaths in the US have been reduced by 75% with regular Pap tests.
  • When colorectal cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the 5-year survival rate is 90%; when it is diagnosed at a late (distant metastases) stage, the rate is 10%.
  • The 5-year survival rate of all cancers diagnosed between 1996 and 2002 is 66%, up from 51% in 1975-77.

Prevention is Key!

About one third of cancer deaths expected to occur in 2007 will be related to overweight or obesity, physical inactivity and nutrition - and thus could be prevented.

“More than 60 percent of all cancer deaths could be prevented if Americans stopped smoking, exercised more, ate healthier food and got the recommended cancer screenings.”  ~The American Cancer Society, Reported on March 31, 2006.

  • Reducing Smoking and Exposure to Second Hand Smoke

    • Encourage your worksite to publicize its policy creating smoke free zones near doors, windows and intake vents.
    • If your worksite has a policy restricting how close people can be to doors, windows and intake vents when they smoke, encourage your worksite to develop and enforce a Tobacco Free Campus Policy to protect employees from second hand smoke.
    • Free & Clear®, the proven smoking cessation program offered by all PEBB health plans can help you kick the habit. The trained counselors at Free & Clear ® can help you set up a personal plan. People who make a plan to quit in advance double their odds of succeeding. Call Free & Clear® to quit for life at 866-QUIT-4-LIFE (866-784-8454). Be sure to tell them you’re a PEBB member so you get the full benefit.
  • Physical Activity
    • To reduce your risk of developing cancer, it’s important that you get your recommended daily physical activity – moderately intense activity for 30 minutes/day at least 5 days per week.
    • Compared to sedentary individuals, physically active persons have a 30-40% lower risk for breast cancer and a 20-30% lower risk for colorectal cancer. (Friederrich 2002, Chang 2006, Samad 2005, and Thune and Farberg 2001)
  • Healthy Eating
    • Eating healthier food can reduce your risk for developing cancer. Organize a healthy potluck in your office and make a kale recipe (pdf) to share with your coworkers.
  • Cancer Screening Guidelines
    • An estimated 10.5 million cancer survivors are alive today, due in large part to increased screening and better treatment.
    • Regular screenings for certain types of cancer such as breast, cervical, colorectal and prostate cancer are important for early detection and treatment. Employees should ask their health care provider as part of their regular exam for a schedule of preventative screenings for themselves and their family. The 2005 Oregon insurance mandate requires that every health insurance policy in Oregon that covers hospital, medical or surgical expenses provide coverage of mammograms, prostate examinations and colorectal screenings.
    • Employees can find out more about their health plan and benefits by visiting the link for their health plan below.
    • The American Cancer Society recommends various guidelines for the early detection of cancer. For more information, read about Cancer Detection Guidelines and take the interactive “Get Your Screen Test” tour.
    • It's important to protect your skin from ultra violet rays when engaging in outdoor physical activity. Oregon’s skin cancer rate is 26% higher than the national rate (Source: Oregon State Cancer Registry).

Dealing with Cancer in the Workplace

  • If you or someone you know has specific health concerns or symptoms related to cancer, it’s important to seek the advice of a health professional. Don’t wait!
  • Encourage your worksite to establish a wellness room or make your existing wellness room available for cancer patients and employees who have loved ones with cancer. The wellness room would be used by employees for emotional healing, rest or stretching as part of their treatment, and for taking medications

Taking Care of Yourself and Supporting Others with Cancer

  • Continue eating healthy with lots of fruits and veggies. People whose diets are rich in fruits and veggies have a lower risk of getting cancers of the colon, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach and lungs and possibly prostate cancer. (Source: Cancer Trends Progress Report 2005, NCI).
  • Psychological and emotional well being:
    • Consider applying for Hardship Leave if you need time off to help family members or for bereavement. Check with your agency or Human Resources for the specifics related to this policy.
    • Cancer Care Resources and the American Cancer Society have extensive resources for caregivers, people with cancer and cancer survivors. This nonprofit community-based organization offers support groups, referrals to services, and occasional classes.
    • Consider joining a support group in your area for caregivers or for people with family members who have cancer.


  • Willamette Valley Cancer Center (541) 683-5001

  • American Cancer Society (541) 434-3114

Portland Metro Area:

  • Adventist Medical Center (503) 309-2222
  • Cancer Care Resources (503) 528-5236
  • Legacy Health System (503) 413-7284
  • Providence Professional Plaza (503) 215-6015
  • Providence St Vincent Hospital, Diane Harris (503) 216-2917, Toni Lonning (503) 216-2280, Jocelyn Libby (503) 215-5305
  • Tuality – Hillsboro (503) 681-1700


  • Mid Valley Cancer Care Community (503) 391-4417
  • Salem Hospital (503) 373-2254
  • Explore a flex-time policy with your employer for:
    •  Medical appointments
    • Physical needs
    • Emotional needs
    • Financial stress
    • Caring for loved ones with cancer
  • Find a local map or print a web-based map of the area around your worksite and walk during your breaks or lunch hour. Physically active breast and colorectal cancer survivors have a 50-60% lower risk of death from reoccurrence. (Source: Holmes 2005, Merverhardt 2006)