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Madrid, 28 February 2024. Cancer is an illness that can affect any individual and its impact goes beyond the purely medical, reaching emotional, financial and organisational levels. A large proportion of the cancers diagnosed in Spain occur in the working population, which highlights the role of the company in promoting the health and wellbeing of all its employees and its role as an essential support point for workers with cancer, which is becoming increasingly important.

In this context, Cigna Healthcare and MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid have once again created synergies to produce the guide “Cancer in the company II: current challenges of the most commonly diagnosed cancers.” This document, presented today at an event held in the MD Anderson Cancer Center España foundation auditorium, is the second edition of this guide that seeks to detail the approach to cancer in organisations from a practical, empathetic and close approach. It covers the current situation of cancer in Spain after the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the various strategies that can be followed by human resources professionals and those responsible for team management in companies to deal with the prevention and management of cancer cases among their employees.

According to the latest data from the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC), more than 35% of new cases of cancer in Spain occur between the ages of 15 and 64, 81% of them between the ages of 50 and 64, an age group that is in direct contact with the working population. This context places human resources departments as a key agent to promote a corporate culture that understands and responds proactively to these challenges, promoting policies and support programmes for employees with this illness.

"Every year, about 300,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Spain, the majority of whom are under 65 years old and in active employment. In addition, the arrival of COVID-19 had an impact at all levels and, as a result, employees now value work environments that look after their health and wellbeing, especially in the most delicate or difficult moments. Given this change of scenario, we wanted to continue with the initiative through this document that analyses the current situation of cancer in Spain and provides guidelines for companies to be a key support point in the management of cancer in their employees," says Amira Bueno, Cigna Healthcare España Human Resources Director.

Dr Santiago González, Medical Director of MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, states that "companies are a key part of the approach to cancer, both in the promotion of healthy lifestyles and the prevention of risk factors, as well as in the support of people diagnosed with cancer, whether they are employees or their families. For this reason, we are committed to this alliance with Cigna Healthcare Spain, which fosters a culture of support for cancer in the Spanish business community and raises awareness of the challenges posed by this illness."

How do Spanish companies deal with managing cancer among their employees?

Companies have undergone a paradigm shift in which the health and well-being of employees has become one of the main objectives of Human Resources departments. This objective becomes a priority in the case of employees with cancer since it is still the main cause of death worldwide and, therefore, specific training and information on this illness is essential within the corporate culture.

In Spain, the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) estimates that 286,664 cases will be diagnosed in 2024 and that the global incidence will continue to rise to 341,000 cases by 2040. The guide "Cancer in the company II: current challenges of the most commonly diagnosed cancers" describes the steps to be taken by companies to deal with this situation and the training needed by human resources teams to support employees throughout the oncological process. Thus, pre-diagnosis (anticipation, prevention and early diagnosis), diagnosis (impact management), treatment (support) and return to work (readaptation) are the four key moments that must be addressed to successfully manage this circumstance. The document also highlights the importance of communication and the participation of the company's senior management, the availability of action programmes and work flexibility.

This new edition also provides an in-depth analysis of the most prevalent cancers in Spain, the risk factors and the various prevention levels (primary, secondary and tertiary) and analyses the basic pillars that contribute to the overall wellbeing of an employee with cancer – rest, nutrition, physical activity, giving up smoking, emotional wellbeing and skin care.

Cigna Healthcare España Medical Director Isabel López Cotorruelo emphasises that "Psychological support for cancer patients is essential to address the emotional and psychosocial aspects of the illness, improving quality of life and promoting a more holistic approach to treatment. For this reason, at Cigna Healthcare we offer our policyholders a clinical follow-up service through which we provide quality medical care and support before, during and after the illness. We also focus on prevention, a key point in the detection of any oncological pathology."

According to Dr Ricardo Cubedo, Medical Oncologist and Head of the Hereditary Cancer Unit in MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, "Cancer survival has doubled in the last 40 years, leaving a large number of survivors who also have to deal with other comorbidities associated with the cancer process. It is very important for patients to lead healthy lifestyles, such as a Mediterranean diet and frequent physical exercise, which has been proven to improve prognosis.”

The guide “Cancer in the company II: current challenges of the most commonly diagnosed cancers” is available here.