Healthcare team members are often relied upon in the return to work planning. They often provide the support that will improve work ability or offer opinions related to current or future work readiness and abilities. Communication between healthcare practitioners and cancer survivors early and often is important to ensure that the survivors’ work concerns are properly addressed. Cancer survivors need to know how their cancer and its treatment will affect their work abilities, to help decide whether they can stay or return to work, look at alternative work, apply for disability or sick leave (if these are available to them), or stop working. For ideas on questions that need to be addressed, see Communicating with patients. Discussing work-related abilities and concerns also provides an opportunity for healthcare providers to initiate and discuss interventions to improve work readiness, or workplace support to improve the survivor’s chances of staying at work safely and successfully.
In many cases, employers and disability insurance providers ask physicians to provide opinions on whether a patient can presently work, when or if they can return to work, and any restrictions and limitations that will need to be accommodated. Oncologists are also often called upon by employers and disability insurers to give their opinion on a patient’s current work abilities because of their clinical experience with specific treatments. This is especially the case when treatments have changed and there is no research yet to inform how it may impact work-related functions. For more information on how to better communicate with insurance providers and employers, see Communicating with insurance providers and Communicating with employers.