Presently, the risk of an American man developing cancer over his lifetime is less than one in two. For an American woman, the risk of developing cancer over her lifetime is a little more than one in three. By 2030, the number of new cancer cases in the United States will increase by 45 percent, largely as a result of the aging of the nation’s population. These Americans, many of whom are actively employed, on medical leave or desire to return to work, are part of a growing community of cancer survivors – approximately 14.5 million survivors – who are physically, emotionally and financially affected by the life-altering diagnosis that cancer presents. Successfully navigating through these challenges requires an ecosystem of support: expert medical care, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy; family and caregiver coaching and counseling; financial resources to address the cost of care; and employer policies and best practices to provide continued employment, workplace accommodations and an inclusive work environment to maximize employee contributions.
Remaining at work through cancer treatment or returning shortly after offers much more than financial security to survivors. It enables employees to achieve a sense of normalcy, to engage with co-workers, to make meaningful contributions to their company’s business goals and to regain confidence as valuable citizens. Despite these benefits, cancer survivors have higher rates of unemployment than their peers. Many do not return to the workforce, representing billions of lost dollars in disposable income, government taxes and potential revenue to both large and small businesses.
For these reasons, ensuring full employment opportunities for cancer survivors is a critical business issue - not just for the individual, but also for policymakers, the business community and for private and public employers.
This paper examines the impact of a cancer diagnosis on employment and provides specific recommendations for immediate consideration and adoption by federal and state policymakers.