Returning to work: Partnership adds to survivorship knowledge base

Insights gathered from service providers, patients, caregivers and employers

The Partnership has recently completed three projects to help identify issues related to returning to work after a cancer diagnosis — either after treatment or while it is underway — and is pleased to make the summary reports available through its cancer control portal,

“These research projects are important because they show where there are gaps in the supports that help people transition back to work,” said Elisabeth Ross, co-chair of the Partnership’s National Survivorship Working Group. “As the population of survivors continues to grow, more and more workers and workplaces will be facing these issues.”

The reports summarize a series of literature reviews, surveys, interviews and focus groups relating to programs and resources, the concerns of people with cancer and their caregivers, and workplace supports. The consultations included program developers, insurers, unions, and employers as well as nearly 500 people with cancer or their caregivers.

The information gathered will support the Partnership and its partners in developing a survivorship strategy that includes establishing priorities for workplace and community supports.

Common themes identified across the return to work projects include the need for:

  1. more robust accommodation strategies for cancer survivors returning to work;
  2. better communication among all stakeholders;
  3. better education about accommodations and side-effect management;
  4. additional tools and resources to support best practices;
  5. improved financial supports;
  6. more research.

The return to work reports available for download are:

  1. Programs and Resources to Facilitate Return to Work for People with Cancer or Other Chronic Diseases shares the findings of an environmental scan and follow up interviews. The focus was on existing support services, training programs, and online resources and tools that are designed to facilitate people living with cancer, and other chronic diseases, returning to the workplace.
  2. Return to Work Concerns Faced by People Dealing with Cancer and Caregivers summarizes a literature review and consultations to determine current Canadian information about challenges faced by people dealing with cancer, and their caregivers, when the person with cancer returns to the workplace. Surveys were completed by 410 people diagnosed with cancer and 60 caregivers. Additional focus groups also informed the findings.
  3. Research Related to Workplace Support for Cancer Survivor shares the results of interviews and focus groups with employers and other stakeholders. These explored the perspectives and challenges faced by employers when a staff member’s capacity to work is affected by cancer.

Survivorship: Part of the national cancer strategy

Since its creation in 2007 to implement Canada’s cancer strategy, the Partnership has worked to improve the cancer journey for those most affected by the disease. This commitment continues in the newly released strategic plan for 2012-2017.

“Survivorship initiatives that address the needs of people living beyond cancer treatment are a significant part of our work to improve how people experience cancer whether they are newly diagnosed, actively receiving care or have moved beyond treatment,” said Dr. Heather Bryant, Vice-President of Cancer Programs, Clinical and Population Health for the Partnership. “Together with our partners, we will continue to work toward a health system that puts people at the centre of cancer care.”

The Partnership’s work to improve the cancer journey also includes:

  • improving patient-reported outcomes;
  • palliative and end-of-life care initiatives;
  • initiatives designed to improve integration across cancer care settings.

To find out more, please see Sustaining Action Toward A Shared Vision, the 2012-2017 strategic plan.