Life after cancer: Transforming the post-treatment experience

Making it easier for people living with cancer to return to and remain at work

People living with cancer returning to the workplace face many questions:

  • When is the right time to go back?
  • Am I physically and mentally ready for it? Or will my brain fog and fatigue get in the way?
  • Will my workplace schedule accommodate ongoing medical appointments or accessibility needs?
  • Will I be able to slide back into the same role I had before?

They’re difficult questions to answer. In some cases, people rush back to work too quickly, hoping to mitigate the financial hardships of cancer. Or they haven’t had the right discussions with their employer or colleagues, so proper accommodations aren’t in place when it’s time to go back.

The Cancer and Work website is recognized as one of the best resources for people living with cancer in the world. If not forthe Partnership’s support, it wouldn’t exist- and Canada would be seen as not doing anything about this important issue.

Cancer and Work

The key is in starting the return-to-work conversation as early as possible, rather than waiting until treatment is done. That’s why the Partnership has supported organizations like Cancer and Work — so healthcare professionals, employers and employees can access the resources they need to make the transition back into the workplace as smooth as possible.

How Cancer and Work empowers the return-to-work journey

Proper planning is key to easing the transition back into the workplace for people living with cancer. The Cancer and Work website helps make that planning easier. Developed with Partnership contributions, and supported by BC Cancer and McGill University, it provides a single hub of return-to-work resources and interactive tools for people living with cancer, employers and healthcare providers, including:

  • a walkthrough of the 10 steps in the return-to-work process;
  • tools for assessing physical and cognitive readiness;
  • information on job accommodations; and
  • the business case for companies to retain employees with cancer.

Healthcare providers can also access an eLearning module on how to support people living with cancer return to work. Launched in 2023, this free, one-hour course covers several topics, including how to:

  • identify the factors that affect a person’s ability to return to work;
  • address barriers in the return-to-work process; and
  • effectively communicate with employers.

It also provides insights into human rights and insurance law. While dedicated vocational rehabilitation counsellors would ideally be the ones to assist people living with cancer with their work-related challenges, healthcare providers who complete this training will be in a better position to support their patients.

Get to know Laura and how she navigated her cancer journey while also going back to work.

Other initiatives supported by the Partnership

An in-depth review of mental health and return-to-work programs and models
The Partnership’s 2019 environmental scan explored Canadian and international mental health and return-to-work programs and models of care for people living with cancer. It found that programs for people of working-age should adopt a holistic approach with individualized care plans aligned with each person’s goals and priorities. Also, return-to-work support and guidance should be part of any survivorship offering, while peer support, social networking and recreational programs can all improve mental wellness.

  1. Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Living with cancer: A report on the cancer experience [Internet]. The Partnership; 2018 [cited 2024 Jan 25]. Available from: