‘We are living in an epidemic of cancer,’ says Professor Gordon Wishart. Former clinical director of the Cambridge Breast Unit and a visiting Professor of Cancer Surgery at Anglia Ruskin University, Professor Wishart has an international reputation in the field of clinical breast cancer research. Startling as the claim may sound, when an expert of his standing makes a statement such as this, one is forced to listen. Words: Toby Venables
The steady rise in cancer incidence certainly qualifies it for ‘epidemic’ status. The risk of cancer is currently one in three, and is predicted to rise to one in two by 2020. In the UK, there are about 325,000 new cases of cancer every year, and 160,000 deaths.
‘It’s already high,’ says Professor Wishart, ‘but it’s going to get higher.’ The impact this will continue to have on our society is huge. But Professor Wishart is just one of the leading clinicians at the forefront of a whole new approach to tackling this problem – implementing early detection and educational services within the workplace. Early detection is key to a successful outcome with cancer. Put bluntly, it is the factor that most often decides whether the sufferer survives or not. To this end, Professor Wishart was one of the cancer experts who was instrumental in setting up HealthScreen UK (HSUK) – a corporate screening organisation that works with employers, their insurers and their advisers to help employees become the first line of defence through early detection and education services.
HSUK have already established an impressive roster of corporate clients – including Hewlett Packard, Deloitte and easyJet – and lives have been saved by their efforts
Based in Cambridge – with close links to the University and its pioneering medical community – HSUK offers the service to employers across the UK, either in their workplace or in one of its UK-wide clinics. They have already established an impressive roster of corporate clients – including Hewlett Packard, Deloitte and easyJet – and lives have been saved by their efforts. At Hewlett Packard alone, at least 65 previously undiagnosed cancers have been detected.
The question many businesses may ask, however, is ‘Why us?’ The world of work already has plenty on its plate, with recovery from recession and the daily pressures of running a business, so why focus this campaign there in the first place? ‘Workplaces are very good environments to try and educate people,’ explains Gordon Wishart. ‘Usually you have a mix of sexes and ages, which is not a bad thing – that means you are educating the whole age range. The majority of cancers increase in incidence the older you get, and cancer tends to be something that affects middle-aged and older people – but some of the risk factors that drive that increase start when you’re younger, so we have to educate young people too.’
Over 100,000 people of working age are being diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK
Clearly, this is a good thing for employees, and can save lives – but how do you convince employers on narrow margins and tight budgets that they, and not the government, should be taking responsibility? As it turns out, there are some pretty compelling reasons. ‘The Department of Health itself has asked for the support of employers in the early detection of all cancers in… [cont]