The employment concerns of cancer survivors have changed notably during the past generation. In the 1970s, less than one-half of those diagnosed with cancer survived more than five years. Treatment options were few, often disabling, and commonly ineffective. Myths about cancer prevailed. Consequently, many survivors experienced substantial problems obtaining and retaining employment.
Significant medical, social, and legal progress has extended and enhanced the lives of millions of cancer survivors. Advances in cancer treatment fostered changes in attitudes about cancer, which in turn have led to a considerable expansion of the legal rights of cancer survivors in the workplace.
Although the attitudes of cancer survivors and their co-workers have changed, one factor has remained constant over the past generation— most cancer survivors want to, and in fact, are able to perform their jobs and return to work after diagnosis. Whether a survivor continues to work during treatment or returns to work after treatment, and if so, whether that survivor’s diagnosis or treatment will result in working limitations, depends on many factors.
They include the survivor’s age, stage at diagnosis, financial status, education, and access to health insurance and transportation, as well as the physical demands of the job and the presence of any other chronic health conditions. Medical treatment decisions that consider the quality of life and the shift towards providing cancer treatment in outpatient settings have contributed to the increasing number of survivors who can work during their treatment.
A cancer experience can affect a survivor’s ability to obtain an initial job, maintain employment, make career advancements, and change jobs. This publication describes survivors’ legal rights relating to employment and suggests ways to avoid and address cancer-related employment problems.
The Ellen L. Stovall Award for Innovation in Patient-Centered Cancer Care is a unique opportunity for patients and survivors to recognize pioneers who are transforming the cancer care system.
The NCCS Cancer Policy & Advocacy Team (CPAT) is a program for survivors and caregivers to learn about pressing policy issues that affect quality cancer care in order to be engaged as advocates in public policy around the needs of cancer survivors.
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