Time to act on workforce participation during and after cancer

An editorial, published in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing, calls for action by researchers and practitioners to maximise workforce participation during and after cancer.

The editorial, from the UK and Ireland CANWORK group (of which Prof Linda Sharp from the National Cancer Registry is a member), notes that a diagnosis of cancer has a significant impact on work and employment. For cancer survivors, the ability to work is important to maintaining social relationships, self-esteem and psychological well-being. Being at work helps maintain financial stability, the loss of which can lead to financial distress and adverse psychological effects. From a societal perspective, time away from work due to cancer represents a major loss to the economy. Despite its importance, patients report a lack of well-timed and appropriate support regarding return to work after cancer, and health care professionals report that they feel ill-equipped to respond adequately to patients’ work-related difficulties. In addition, many small and medium sized enterprises (and some large enterprises) lack the necessary resources to adequately support the health and well-being of their employees with cancer.

The authors note that there is a growing research interest to help better understand workforce participation after cancer, and to develop interventions to support cancer survivors returning to work. They welcome the CANWON COST network, which was recently established to bring together researchers across Europe with an interest in cancer and work. The authors also note that a range of practical tools and resources have been developed in the UK to help support employers and employees with cancer in navigating the path to work resumption, but that these tools need to be more widely used. Finally, they observe that nurses and other practitioners working in cancer care also need to recognise the importance of work. In particular, they suggest that oncology nurses have a key role to play in signposting to further advice and support, for example to hospital based social workers, vocational rehabilitation services, local cancer support and information centres. 

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