Be the Boss Over Cancer

Outside of Cancer and Careers, I am in the midst of finishing my master’s thesis for a public policy degree at Georgetown. The issues of people working during or after their cancer treatment are never far from my mind. So much so that I have dedicated this year long project to digging into a national dataset to see if I can identify any statistically significant effect of cancer on employment. I am still building my models but the early results indicate there is some relationship between cancer and negative impacts on work. The project has also allowed me to spend time reading the academic research that does exist on employment and cancer, which has been illuminating but not for the reasons you might think... What has become abundantly clear is that not enough people are being talked to with cancer and therefore not enough questions are being asked about cancer’s impact on employment. Not to mention that the questions that are being asked aren’t necessarily the right ones. It isn’t really a fault of any one researcher or institution it is more a reminder that this issue is still young. CAC is only 10 years old after all and before us there was no organization focused on the issues surrounding work and treatment.

There are signs that the research community is catching up, for instance the National Cancer Institute is providing a supplemental questionnaire on cancer for the same survey I am using now for my thesis. The results will be available in 2013. For more on that: For the last eight years I have heard daily from patients, survivors, healthcare professionals, caregivers, managers and coworkers about how much a cancer diagnosis and recovery impacts work, here’s hoping this is just the beginning of the research to capture the data I know exists.


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  • Amy R.

    Amy R. on Feb 16, 2012

    I have had leiomyosarcoma...for 11 years..check out my blog at
    I could tell you all about not being able to work and having cancer...having cancer one time...does not really effect employment...having cancer for years absolutley does..... Thank you.

  • Rebecca Nellis

    Rebecca Nellis on Feb 16, 2012

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Amy,

    Thank you for your comment and for reading our blog, after eleven years there is no doubt you must be an expert on the topic of work and cancer. Interestingly, both in the research I have done/looked at and in the anecdotes I have heard having cancer ever provides a negative shock that can have short and/or long term impacts on the person depending on the kind of cancer and the kind of treatment. One of the things I am trying to look at in my thesis is whether a recurrence has a longer lasting/worse effect than a new cancer.

    Take care,

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