NEW YORKScreening for breast cancer in the workplace saves money as
well as lives, according to a study commissioned by Zeneca Inc. To
emphasize this important message to business, the results were
presented in a news conference held on Wall Street at the New York
Based on its own experience, the Wilmington, Del, pharmaceutical
company determined that the cost of its breast cancer screening
program was offset by significant savings in treatment costs had the
cancers been detected at later stages.
"Over the 7-year life of our program, we have seen a net direct
cost savings of $1.1 million," said A. Keith Willard, Zeneca
chairman. He urged the business community to look to the Zeneca model
in setting up their own screening programs for employees, calling it
a "win-win situation for all concerned."
Zeneca is the founder of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a
co-founder of the Industries' Coalition Against Cancer, a nonprofit
foundation dedicated to encouraging small and large businesses to
implement worksite screening programs for employees.
In 1989, Zeneca established its on-site screening facility, offering
employees free screening mammograms, instruction in breast
self-examination, and referrals for clinical examination and
follow-up for women with abnormal mammograms. To date, nearly 2,500
age-eligible women have been screened, with a screening compliance
rate double the national norm.
Mr. Willard said that an analysis of that program showed that Zeneca
had saved 16 times its original investment, as well as the lives of
12 women whose breast cancers were detected early.
A Harris poll, conducted in connection with the Zeneca program,
showed that the majority of working women still do not have access to
breast cancer education or screening through their work.
Of the women polled, more than 80% said they believed that companies
offering some type of education or screening program value their
employees and their health, and are "good corporate
citizens"; 83% said they would use such a program if it were
available; and 60% said that their loyalty to employers would be
enhanced if a breast cancer screening program were offered.
"Clearly, there are indirect benefits of such programs,"
Mr. Willard said. "In addition to lower health insurance costs,
employers will benefit from lower rates of absenteeism and employee
turnover, as well as improved morale."
Mr. Willard pointed out that the dollar value of worksite screening
increases in proportion to the size of the company. Nonetheless, he
said, there are options for smaller companies for whom on-site
programs may not be feasible. Among these are pooling resources with
other small companies to share the costs of educational materials and
a mobile screening van, for example, and enlisting the support of
local hospitals and county, state, and federal health departments.
Zeneca is publishing a series of how-to guides for starting and
maintaining workplace cancer screening programs. The HealthSite
guides, based on Zeneca's own experience with work-site preventive
programs for breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer, will be
available free of charge to other businesses that wish to study the
feasibility of establishing similar programs (see below).
To order guidelines
The first two HealthSite guides, on breast and prostate cancers, will
"We want to send a message to corporate America about worksite
cancer screening programs," Mr. Willard said. "If you build
it, they will come."
Following Zeneca's lead, The Rite Aid Corporation has established a
worksite mammography initiative, providing on-site screening
mammograms for employees at its corporate headquarters, Harrisburg,
Penn. The company plans to expand the program within the next year to
all 30,000 of its employees, said Suzanne Mead, vice-president of
corporate communications. A year-round educational component is also
Nancy Lee, MD, associate director for science in the CDC's Division
of Cancer Prevention and Control, pointed out that the worksite is
the ideal place for cancer screening. "Targeted cancer screening
programs in the workplace take advantage of a captive audience. They
remove time and travel barriers, and can utilize existing facilities
and programs," she said.
But, Dr. Lee cautioned, "a mammogram alone never saved anyone's
life." Prompt treatment is what saves lives, she said, adding
that the employer's responsibility does not end with the mammogram.
Referral, encouragement, and financial help in obtaining treatment
are essential for all women with abnormal mammograms.
Dr. Lee also stressed the need for periodic rescreening, since
screening rates tend to drop off with age despite the fact that
cancer rates increase with age.
The CDC has dedicated $140 million to the National Breast and
Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, Dr. Lee said, and
worksite-based cancer screening initiatives are an important part of
that effort. To further the early detection program, she added, the
CDC has enlisted partners in the private sector, including the
American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, and
National Center for Farmworker Health.