1.72 million new cancer cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. As of 2019, there are more than 16.9 million cancer survivors in the U.S. With the number of survivors continuously growing, there is an increasing need for resources and support to help them get back to everyday life and work after diagnosis and treatment.
The Intersection of Work and Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, the number of survivors (defined as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer) will reach almost 21.7 million in the next decade. Men have slightly less than a one-in-two lifetime risk of developing cancer; for women, the risk is a little more than one in three. These numbers only validate what many of us already know to be true: These days you’re hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a cancer story, whether they were the one diagnosed, or a family member, spouse, friend, teacher, coworker, etc. Not only are more people being diagnosed with cancer, but more people are surviving and living long after.
As the number of cancer survivors continues to increase, the need for support around survivorship issues, such as working during and after treatment, is becoming more and more important. Here are some statistics that demonstrate just a few of the ways that cancer and work intersect today:
More than 70% of cancer diagnoses are made in adults between the ages of 20 and 74 — i.e., “prime employment years.”1
Cancer survivors are 1.4 times more likely to be unemployed than people who have never been diagnosed.2
of cancer survivors still report work limitations affected by cancer-related problems 1–5 years after diagnosis.3
cancer discrimination claims were received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2020.
Cancer and Careers and Harris Interactive conducted a survey in 2021 to better understand the current needs of working people with cancer. The survey found that the majority of cancer survivors and people with cancer are eager to continue working but need support to balance their health and work demands. Findings from the survey help to illuminate the importance of supporting survivors in their workplaces:
Top three reasons to continue working after a diagnosis
Need to work for financial reasons
Currently feel well enough
Want to keep things as normal as possible
of surveyed cancer patients and survivors said that working through treatment helped them cope
of survivors looking for a job feel prospective employers would treat them differently if they knew about their diagnosis.
In 2010 a Livestrong survey found that 98% of cancer survivors experienced the physical (i.e., pain), emotional (i.e., emotional distress) and practical (e.g., financial) concerns of post-treatment survivorship. Only 20% of survey respondents received help with their practical concerns. Support around these survivorship issues is essential in order for people to thrive in their lives and workplaces post treatment.
1Tracy, et al., 2018
2 de Boer, et al., 2018. https://osha.europa.eu/es/publications/rehabilitation-and-return-work-after-cancer-instruments-and-practices
3 de Moor, J. S. (2010), Work and Cancer Survivors. Edited by Michael Feuerstein. Springer, New York, 2009. No. of pages: 350. ISBN 978-0-387-72040-1. Psycho-Oncology, 19: 332–333. doi: 10.1002/pon.1634
4 ADA CHARGE DATA by IMPAIRMENTS/BASES - RECEIPTS FY 1997 - FY 2014. (n.d.). www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/ada-receipts.cfm