Research in the field of cancer survivors returning to work after treatment is still limited. Productivity loss is becoming an increasingly important aspect to survivorship as new (and often better-tolerated) treatments emerge and survival rates improve. As a result, more patients will continue to work during treatment or choose to return to work after treatment.
Nonetheless, decreased productivity at work can be a common side effect of cancer and its treatment. Cancer treatment will affect productivity due to the need to take time off for treatments, hospital or clinic visits, and managing side effects. Additional side effects may include fatigue and decreased cognitive functioning., which can be a result of the treatment or of the cancer itself. It has been estimated that about 25% of cancer survivors feel less productive at work.1
Major concerns for survivors when returning to work included decreased income, an inability to resume previous work activities, a lack of accommodations, difficulty negotiating with employers, and a lack of information on assistive programs. There is a lack of education on workplace accommodations, and communication needs to be improved. Survivors also expressed that it was important for them to receive more information on how to access financial support, as well as other community resources and support.2
Both survivors and caregivers are affected by low work productivity, as so much of their time and energy is dedicated to dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Nearly half of the approximately one million Canadians who have survived cancer for at least 10 years are under 65 years of age – that is, they are in the prime of their working life. There are not many workplace interventions in place to help reintegrate cancer survivors, so research and policy is especially important in this area.3
The Cancer and Work website is a valuable resource to address the unique needs of cancer survivors with returning, remaining, changing work or looking for work after a diagnosis of cancer. Find more information and resources here.
For more information, see work and financial aspects of survivorship.