How To Support Employees Affected By Breast Cancer

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Businesses have incredible power to influence the communities in which they operate as well as society as a whole. They should use this power to help create awareness around important social and socio-economic issues, such as the ongoing fight against breast cancer.


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Breast cancer can affect anyone, at anytime and employers should be aware of how best to support their employees who may be affected by this illness. 

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Manpower South Africa’s MD, Lyndy van den Barselaar, highlights the important role businesses have to play in creating awareness and providing support around breast cancer in South Africa.

“While most people are aware of the existence of breast cancer or perhaps know someone affected by it, the important job of creating awareness around it is never done,” she says. “Businesses can actively get involved in the fight against breast cancer is by organising awareness campaigns, initiating early screening programmes, educating employees on how to check themselves for the early warning signs of the disease and offering counselling services at the workplace for support, for example.”

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among South African women, with the Cancer Association of South Africa reporting that South African women have a one in nine chance of getting cancer, with breast cancer topping the list of possibilities.

Manpower South Africa employee, Mariam Lutta is a breast cancer survivor, and shares her views on breast cancer and providing support in the workplace.

“Being diagnosed definitely had a major impact on my life. It was truly an eye opener and I now look at things in a different light. I realised how strong I actually am. Throughout my treatment (chemotherapy, radiation, etc.), I continued to work and only took days off went I went for treatment. We all have dreams and goals, and being diagnosed doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams; your path to achieving your dreams may just change slightly.

“Having support plays a huge part in your recovery, and not only support from family and friends but also from your employer. I can honestly say that Manpower South Africa supported me in every way possible and that is what someone diagnosed with breast cancer needs.”

When asked what she thinks local businesses and large organisations should do to aid in the fight against breast cancer, Lutta’s first recommendation is creating awareness through support campaigns. “The more people know, the better. Hearing that you have cancer is not news anyone expects to hear. When you receive this type of news, everyone handles things differently. I would advise anyone diagnosed with cancer to never give up. Your life is worth fighting for.”

In conclusion, van den Barselaar says: “Businesses should not underestimate the difference they can make, no matter how small they are. As human beings we spend most of our waking hours at work, and management should create an environment where employees feel supported, not only in October but throughout the year. Early detection saves lives, and Manpower South Africa encourages all South African companies to initiate support campaigns and start saving lives today.”

Workplace awareness and programmes for women affected by breast cancer can make a massive difference in the everyday lives of these women, as well as take a little bit of stress for their shoulders as they now feel supported at work. 

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