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Half of cancer patients feel diagnosis negatively impacts career, new study shows

There have been calls for a State backed back-to-work scheme for cancer patents.
Feb 16th 2021, 6:00 AM 9,911 12

ALMOST HALF OF people returning to work after a cancer diagnosis reported that their diagnosis had a negative impact on their career, a new study reveals.

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

Nearly half (46%) of those that returned to employment identified health issues which affected their ability to return to work.

The survey included people diagnosed with cancer between 2010 and 2020, of whom 86% had returned to employment at the time of completing the survey.

However, a third of cancer patients and survivors surveyed reported negative experiences such as a reduction in salary or bonus (11%) on their return or being overlooked for promotion (7%).

Negative impact 

The Returning to Employment Following a Diagnosis of Cancer report, which includes a survey based on responses from 377 people affected by cancer in the last decade, finds that while seven in 10 people felt supported by both their employers and manager in returning to their job, nearly half of respondents felt that their cancer diagnosis negatively impacted career prospects.

The Irish Cancer Society believes there is a key role for Government in ensuring that there are adequate financial supports in place to allow those diagnosed with cancer to return to employment only when they are ready.

It is calling for a number of changes from government which includes legislation to ensure a statutory obligation for employers to provide sick leave pay. 

It also calls for a State-run pilot programme on reintegration into the workplace for those out of work at the time of their diagnosis/after their diagnosis. 

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A new statutory payment for employees and self-employed people with chronic illness to attend medical appointments during work time should also be rolled out, it says, stating that employers should agree a flexible ‘Returning to Work plan’ with employees returning to work after a cancer diagnosis.

In a case study, provided by the Irish Cancer Society, Anne Marie Davy, aged 55, from Galway, says she can relate to the survey’s findings, stating that she returned to work in 2018 following major cancer surgery.

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

Irish Cancer Society Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh said it is concerning the survey finds that so many people felt they had to return to work sooner than they might have wished because of financial challenges.

“We know from previous research the crippling financial impact a diagnosis can have on people and their families.The Irish Cancer Society wants all patients to feel supported after a diagnosis, and their quality of life, finances and career prospects should not be affected by their illness,” she said.

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Christina Finn

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