Bee Seen, Get Screened - Talking about the unthinkable

Date: 22/02/2024
Author: Bee Seen
Company: Bee Seen

Cancer is a subject that doesn’t bear thinking about and yet 900,000+ people in the workforce are preoccupied with it.  They are living with cancer and 28% of them say they have had little or no support from their employer.  (Source Macmillan Cancer Support - The Forgotten C)

What can we do?

One of the ways in which employers can be supportive is by pledging to the Greater Manchester Bee Seen, Get Screened campaign. By signing up, employers pledge to:

  • guarantee their staff paid time off, or provide flexible working, to attend NHS cancer screening appointments.
  • raise the profile of health and wellbeing in the workplace.
  • encourage their staff to talk about cancer and the importance of screening.


One in three cancers can be prevented if caught early. Cancer screening saves lives!

You can get more information about the pledge on the Answer Cancer website here:


Why should employers pledge?

Work is a big part of most people’s lives.  We spend one third of our time at work, which makes the workplace a safe and trusted environment.  Supporting cancer screening in the workplace has a number of benefits:

  • Staff feel more valued, helping with recruitment, employee retention and satisfaction.
  • Caught early, cancer interventions are less traumatic, require less treatment and cost employers less. 
  • Screening can reduce sickness absence, improve retention and improve productivity.
  • Demonstrates to clients and customers that you are a socially conscious and responsible employer who supports the NHS. This could help to win contracts and attract new customers.
  • Has a relatively small cost for the business in relation to the potential positive impact.

Workers are more likely to attend screening if they know time to do this is supported by their employer.

Why is screening so important?

It’s vitally important that if you notice anything that is unusual to you, go and see your GP as soon as possible.  However, where screening comes in is diagnosing and detecting cancer before there are any obvious symptoms, and sometimes before cancer has even had a chance to fully develop.

The NHS has three screening programmes breast (mammogram), cervical (smear test) and bowel cancer (home faecal immunochemical testing or FIT kit).

Breast screening is for people registered as female with their GP, aged 50-70 and is available every three years. Supplementing monthly breast checks with mammograms saves lives.  Mammograms can detect lumps long before they can be felt.  99.8% of women survive cancer for 5 years or longer when diagnosed at the earliest stage.  This reduces to 28% survival at the latest stage when symptoms become obvious.

It should be noted that around 400 men a year get breast cancer and they should be aware of signs and symptoms too.

Cervical screening is for women or anyone with a cervix aged 25-64 and is usually carried out at the GP surgery once every three years, for those 25-49, and once every five years for those 50-64. There are often no signs of cervical cancer, so regular smear tests are a life saver. 83% of cervical cancers could be cured if everyone went for their smear.  Work and childcare are the top two issues given for not attending.  Trying to book an appointment to fit in with work is a big barrier.  Only one in five full-time workers were able to get a convenient cervical screening appointment last time they tried to book (source Jo’s Trust).

For bowel screening everyone aged between 56-74 is sent a home FIT test kit.  In Greater Manchester this is being reduced to start at age 50 over the next two years, so you may receive your first kit earlier. Bowel cancer screening can pick up tiny traces of blood in poo, way before you would ever notice them.  Bowel cancer is treatable and curable when caught early.  Nine out of ten people can be cured when bowel cancer is found early.  This reduces to around one in ten at stage four, when symptoms become obvious.



Why is this especially important in Greater Manchester?

For both bowel and cervical cancer screening, Greater Manchester ranks 12th out of the fourteen regions across England. For breast cancer screening it ranks 13th. Not enough people in our region are getting screened and too many people are suffering unnecessarily as a result. Cancer has an impact not only on the individual who is diagnosed but on families, friends, employers, and the wider community.  

How can I raise awareness?

  • Put up posters around your workplace.
    • Book an awareness session with the Answer Cancer Engagement Team.
  • Use Bee Seen, Get Screened alongside other health and wellbeing interventions like stress management, healthy eating, menopause awareness and smoking cessation to improve employee health, wellbeing, and attendance.
  • Include screening information in staff inductions and team meetings.
  • Use Answer Cancer’s online interactive training, quizzes and crosswords to raise awareness.
  • Access and share free videos, which are available in community languages.
  • Share links to online risk checkers.
  • Include health and wellbeing in your performance development plans and highlight cancer screening.


Talking about cancer screening can have a knock-on effect to other hidden health themes such as cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes which can further improve workplace health and wellbeing.

Employees will also help to spread the message to family, friends and the wider community.

What happens next?

If you are interested in making the Bee Seen, Get Screened pledge, contact jacqui.naraynsingh@vsnw, or

Get your questions answered or simply sign up here. It free, it’s easy and it could save lives. Answer Cancer will provide a comms pack, a sample press release and training for staff around screening if this is something you would welcome.

Tell your employees. Keep the conversation going.

Who has already pledged? 

A wide range of small, medium and large employers from the private, public and VCSE organisations have already signed up.  More than 74,000 employees in Greater Manchester are now covered by the pledge.  Why not join them?

Sign up here: Organisational Champion and Bee Seen, Get Screened pledge Sign Up – Answer Cancer (