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Debunking the myths of cancer and employment

Dr Tyna Taskila

04 February 2014

This year World Cancer Day (4 February 2014) is focusing on reducing stigma and dispelling myths about cancer. Reducing stigma is important as cancer is still one of the most feared of all illnesses, even though in reality it is increasingly becoming a chronic rather than terminal condition, thanks to improved treatment and early detection.

Sadly, as World Cancer Day this year wants to emphasise, not all people with cancer have equal access to proven and effective cancer treatments and services. In the UK, once cancer has been treated, people struggle to get back to their normal lives; and in particular they struggle to get back to employment. Unwanted early retirement is a reality for many. People with cancer lack access to vocational rehabilitation - despite a growing body of research evidence showing that early intervention is effective in supporting people with cancer get back to, or remain in, work.  Among healthcare professionals and other stakeholders, it is still widely believed that people with cancer should focus on getting well and not think about getting back to work.

The fact is that getting back to normal life  - including employment  - is an important part of recovery. We are raising issue of employment and cancer in our recently established  European Cancer and Work Research Network (CANWON) which brings together leading European experts in cancer and employment in 18 countries and 27 institutions. We hope to support the development of vocational rehabilitation services for people with cancer and find ways to improve access to the support, which many cancer survivors need to be able to return to work successfully.

Read more blogs by Dr Tyna Taskila