Almost half of cancer patients say the diagnosis has damaged their careers

Nearly half of people returning to work after a cancer diagnosis said their diagnosis had a negative impact on their careers, according to a new study.

Women, young workers, the self-employed and those working in the public sector were more likely to report negative impact, according to survey conducted by the Institute for Economic and Social Research (ESRI) and funded by Irish Cancer Society.

Almost half (46 percent) of those who returned to work identified health issues that affected their ability to return to work.

In general, respondents reported high levels of support from their organization and manager upon returning to work.

However, a third of cancer patients and survivors surveyed reported negative experiences such as reduced pay or bonus (11%) upon their return, or being ignored for promotion (7%). ).

The most frequently reported factors that facilitated a return to work were a gradual return (44 percent), support from colleagues (43 percent), support from the employer / manager (41 percent) and time off for medical appointments (40 percent). hundred).

The report, which includes a survey based on responses from 377 people touched by cancer over the past decade, finds that while seven in ten people felt supported by both their employers and their manager in their return to work , nearly half felt that their cancer diagnosis impacted career prospects.

Anne Marie Davy (55) from Galway returned to work in 2018 after major cancer surgery. She said she could relate to many of the study’s findings through her own experiences.

Stigma

“I wanted to keep things going and get back to normal, which was important to me, but there is a stigma,” she said. “It frustrates me when people make assumptions about what I can and can’t do, and I find that someone in my position often ends up having to fight their own battles. “

Almost four in ten people cited financial need as the main reason for returning to work.

Irish Cancer Society Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh said this was an area that now needs to be addressed.

“Getting back to work after a cancer diagnosis is often very important to a patient’s recovery because it gives many back a sense of purpose,” she said. “It is worrying, however, that so many people felt they had to return to work sooner than they would like due to financial issues. We know from previous research the crippling financial impact that a diagnosis can have on individuals and their families. “

Dr Sheelah Connolly, ESRI’s principal investigator on the study, said: “Research suggests that many people diagnosed with cancer have a relatively positive experience upon returning to work.

“However, returning to work can be difficult for several reasons, including persistent physical and mental health issues. Employers can facilitate return through open communication with the employee and by supporting flexible return based on the individual’s needs.

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