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More Companies Picking Up Tab For Employee Cancer Screenings

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CARY, N.C. — Cancer screening guidelines are printed in black and white; however, whether an employer pays for screenings has always been a gray area.

These days, more companies are adding routine cancer screenings to their coverage.It is a benefit that can pay off in the long run.

Anne Schwerin considers herself lucky. When she is sick, the SAS employee uses the company's onsite health clinic. She also takes advantage of free cancer screenings.

"Definitely! Because when the cost is not involved, you're just taking care of yourself. It makes it easier," she said.

In January, SAS began covering the cost of colon cancer screenings.

"We just knew it was the right thing to do," said Gale Adcock, RN, manager of SAS Corporate Health Services.

More companies are following that lead, covering colon, prostate and screenings for other cancers.

"I'm greatly encouraged by that and I think it's a step in the right direction," said Dr. Kim Lyerly, director of the Duke Cancer Center. "It allows us to catch cancers at that very early stage."

Free screenings are just one of the new perks. If an employee is diagnosed with cancer, some companies, including SAS, will cover the cost if employees want to take part in a clinical trial.

That benefit covers extra expenses like lab work, which is not always covered under a trial.

"It takes a lot of the financial burden off and allows them to participate in an activity that may save their lives or someone elses," Adcock said.

As for cost, benefits like cancer screenings are a good investment for companies.

"It's much easier and less expensive to pay for screening than to pay for chemotherapy, radiation, surgery if they go on to develop cancer," Adcock said.

It may be an even better investment for the people who work there.

Lyerly said he applauds companies who cover cancer screenings. He said the next hurdle is to educate employees about the importance of screenings so they will take advantage of them.