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Cancer survivorship and work 

Cancer survivorship and work
Chapter:
Cancer survivorship and work
Author(s):

Philip Wynn

and Shirley D’Sa

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199643240.003.0032
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date: 16 October 2017

About 5 per cent of the overall UK cancer burden can be attributed to occupational exposures. However, occupational physicians in clinical practice are most likely to be called upon to support and advise employed patients with non-occupational cancers. Support services in the UK are being reconfigured to help the growing population of cancer survivors to live full and active lives for extended periods. Returning to the workplace is a part of this goal, and occupational physicians are likely to see increasing numbers of adults seeking still to work after treatment for conditions that in the past would have led to ill health-related retirement. Set against these improvements in clinical outcome, and the increasing emphasis on support for patients who achieve long-term survival, is evidence that many working-age adults treated for the common cancers subsequently encounter financial and occupational difficulties. People with cancer often experience a loss in income as a result of their condition. Thus, although most working adults diagnosed with primary cancer return to work, a significant minority do not. Cancer is increasingly seen as an illness that can be effectively treated, but functional outcomes vary considerably. Cancer survivorship is considered to encompass people who are undergoing primary treatment, in remission following treatment, show no symptoms of the disease following treatment, or are living with active or advanced cancer. Occupational physicians may be requested to assess work capability and provide advice on workplace support for cancer survivors in any of the survivorship states. In the UK, 98 per cent of public sector and 30 per cent of private sector employers have access to occupational health services. Employers will normally seek guidance from these services on how to manage employees who have developed a serious illness such as cancer. This means that occupational physicians can be in a key position to coordinate the vocational rehabilitation of cancer survivors. This chapter offers an overview of the evidence on work capability, rehabilitation, and occupational risk assessment that may apply to adults diagnosed with a range of cancers.

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