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Healthcare providers

Healthcare providers

There is good news for working-age individuals who receive a cancer diagnosis. Approximately 62% return to work within the first year and stay at work for some time.1 However, cancer survivors may struggle to remain at work and may need accommodations. Not surprisingly, survivors’ rate of return to work and how long they stay varies, depending on the type of cancer, the impact of treatment on each individual, and their workplace environment.

Healthcare professionals play an important role in helping cancer survivors stay at or return to work. They provide:

  • care that improves or informs survivors’ functioning
  • access to rehabilitation to improve a survivor’s ability to work
  • advice regarding current and expected limitations that can impact work
  • recommendations for accommodating limitations temporarily or permanently
  • self-management information for survivors
Healthcare professionals play many roles in supporting cancer survivors to stay at or return to their jobs, or to find new ones.
Physicians in particular are often critical to the return-to-work process because their recommendations have legal influence. The Healthcare Provider section of the Cancerandwork website provides information and resources on remaining at, returning to or accessing employment after a cancer diagnosis for:

  • physicians in family practice, oncology or other specialties
  • nurses working with cancer patients, in oncology, occupational health or other specialties
  • social workers, psychologists and vocational counsellors
  • vocational rehabilitation counsellors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, kinesiologists and other rehabilitation professionals
  • community service providers who specialize in oncology, work in general or rehabilitation hospitals, home care agencies or community organizations
  • all other professionals who support cancer survivors in remaining at, returning to or accessing employment

Context and conditions that make returning to work easier or harder

Context that makes returning to work following cancer easier Context that makes returning to work following cancer harder
Workplace accommodation: flexibility in hours, duties and job site Very physically demanding jobs
Good relationship with their supervisor and colleagues Fatigue
Support at work and at home More severe illness and side effects from treatment
Tailored vocational rehabilitation support during the process Other health problems or disabilities
Clear advice from their doctor about limitations and abilities Changes in priorities (feelings about the importance of work)


For more information on the research on return to work with a focus on Canada, see Vocational Rehabilitation for Cancer Patients: Part One by Maureen Parkinson, Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor, British Columbia Cancer Center

Other information on cancer and work:

Supporting Cancer Survivors’ Return to Work NEW online module! – Parkinson M., Maheu C., UBC Continuing Professional Development and Canadian Partnership against Cancer, Health Canada.

Return to Work Concerns Faced by People Dealing with Cancer, Literature Review and Consultation – Cancer Journey Advisory Group, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

Research Related to Workplace Support for Cancer Survivors: Perspective of Employers – Cancer Journey Advisory Group, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer

Cancer and Work: A Canadian Perspective – Nitkin P., Parkinson M., Schultz I., University of British Columbia and BC Cancer Agency, Funded by the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology

Employment and work-related issues in cancer survivors – Mehnert A.

Employment Challenges for Cancer Survivors – Mehnert A., de Boer A, Feuerstein M.