How to keep cancer survivors in the workplace?
Dr Tyna Taskila
19 July 2013
Macmillan Cancer support today (19th July) raises some important issues around the long-term health problems faced by cancer survivors. These problems can include chronic symptoms, such as fatigue, which can be as debilitating as the illness itself. It has been estimated that as many as 40 per cent of all cancer survivors experience chronic fatigue, even several years after the initial diagnosis. Cancer-related fatigue and other chronic symptoms are likely to play an important role in survivors’ capability not only in their ability to return to work but also in terms of job retention.
There is good evidence which suggests that a majority of cancer survivors are, in fact, able to return to work after their treatment, usually with a minimum support from healthcare services and workplace but they then struggle to remain in work life. Research evidence from large population based studies have found that cancer survivors are at an increased risk of leaving the workforce prematurely. The early departure from work life is not, as you may expect, related to age: the increased risk has been found in young cancer survivors as well as those who were diagnosed later in life.
It is still unclear as to what happens in the first years back at work to push cancer survivors out of the labour market but long-term health problems are likely to play a key role – as well as a lack of continuing support which would help them to cope with on-going health problems. Available rehabilitation is mostly focused on returning to work; early intervention in terms of supporting employees back to work as soon as possible is a strongly emphasised approach. This method naturally responds poorly on the needs of those who develop significant health problems a long time after their diagnosis or with those who continue to face problems. New solutions to support employees with fluctuating health problems are urgently needed.
Read more about our report and work with Macmillan.
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