breast cancer

It is that time of year again when the color pink is everywhere in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Across the U.S., professional sports teams swap their usual jerseys and cleats for pink counterparts and many people wear pink ribbons in solidarity with cancer survivors. Companies donate to charities and research organizations, often hosting walks and runs to raise money.

The campaign to educate Americans about breast cancer may be so widespread because it affects so many people. According to the American Cancer Society, there is a 1 in 8 chance that a woman will develop breast cancer at some time in her life.1 In addition, about 1% of breast cancer diagnoses occur in men.2 Not only is it a significant issue for everyday Americans, but because women comprise nearly half of the U.S. workforce,3 it is a significant issue for employers, too.

Raising awareness about the disease helps — including participating in fundraisers and wearing pink swag — but for many companies, there still may be work to do in helping employees prepare for the possibility of a diagnosis. Below are three things to consider as you look to turn breast cancer awareness into action at the workplace this month.

Getting help with finances

The cost of cancer treatment can be incredibly challenging physically and emotionally. But what about financially? Health insurance may cover a portion of the costs associated with cancer treatments, but there are a number of costs health insurance doesn’t cover, such as the cost of missing work for treatment or the price of seeking out-of-network care.

In fact, there are a number of out-of-pocket costs health insurance may not cover, including copayments, deductibles, transportation and child care. The Journal of Oncology Practice found the median out-of-pocket expense for a breast cancer survivor is $3,500 — with 25% of women saying that amount was $8,000 or higher.4 In the U.S., one-third of employees would not be able to pay an unexpected out-of-pocket medical expense of more than $500.5 On top of ongoing expenses such as utility bills, groceries, and rent or mortgage payments, the cost of cancer treatment can be devastating financially.

Small businesses know the value of taking care of one another. Employers can help empower their employees by providing access to a variety of group medical coverage options, including supplemental cancer insurance, reinforcing the community of small business. By providing the option to apply for coverage that helps with the expenses health insurance may not cover, workers can focus on recovery rather than finances in the event of a diagnosis.

Know the options

While newer cancer treatments may already be covered by health insurance, supplemental insurance policies have not always followed suit. Look for insurers like Aflac that are including more enhanced benefits to their supplemental coverage to help lessen the effect of unforeseen out-of-pocket costs, such as genetic testing to determine their risk of breast cancer, wigs, egg harvesting and areola tattooing post-mastectomy. These supplemental benefits can help mitigate the costs surrounding breast cancer treatment to help ensure employees can be more comfortable in their own skin.

Additionally, independent sales agents can be great assets for learning about new and innovative supplemental policies. By working with an agent, employees can better understand how supplemental cancer coverage works to help with the costs health insurance doesn’t cover and keep them afloat financially. This can provide relief for small-business owners from taking this level of education on themselves — on top of all the many hats that they already wear.

Offering comprehensive options

Another option for employers to help improve and expand their benefits offerings is to offer short-term disability insurance, an ideal alternative for when an employee is too sick to work. In combination with other supplemental insurance, short-term disability can help replace the income lost by not being able to work while other supplemental coverage helps with the costs health insurance may not cover. By offering disability coverage, employers can help their employees focus on getting better rather than work responsibilities.

Be the change

Sponsoring or participating in an event that raises money for breast cancer research is wonderful, but there is more that you can do. This October, wear pink or sport a ribbon — I know I will — but do not stop there. By educating yourself about these opportunities, you can demonstrate care to your employees and provide options for them to help them better protect their finances.

Wendy Herndon is second vice president of Product Launch and Adoption at Aflac. With more than 20 years of experience in this field, she is responsible for managing and guiding product portfolios through their entire life cycles, including strategy, development and implementation.

1, “How Common Is Breast Cancer?” Accessed Sept. 9, 2019.

2, “Rare Breast Cancer Types.” Accessed Sept. 30, 2019.

3 “Women in the Workforce – United States: Quick Take” Accessed Sept. 9, 2019.

4 Medscape, “Costs of Breast Cancer Surgery Can Be Financial Burden” Accessed Sept. 9, 2019.

5 The 2018 Aflac WorkForces Report is the eighth annual study examining benefits trends and attitudes. The surveys, conducted by Lightspeed, captured responses from 1,700 benefits decision-makers and 2,000 employees across the United States in various industries. For more information, visit

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation. Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York. WWHQ | 1932 Wynnton Road | Columbus, GA 31999.

Breast cancer stock photo by ESB Professional/Shutterstock