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Occup Med (Lond). 2013 Oct;63(7):494-500. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqt104. Epub 2013 Aug 30.

A UK survey of the impact of cancer on employment.

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School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Manchester, Jean McFarlane Building, University Place, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.



Improvements in cancer detection and treatment and an increase in retirement age mean more people may experience cancer during their working lives.


To examine the impact of cancer on work activities, sources of advice and support for return-to-work decisions and the role of employers in supporting employees with cancer.


A cross-sectional survey of a randomly selected sample of people from two cancer registries was conducted in England. Eligible individuals were invited to participate via their general practitioners (April-October 2011) and completed a questionnaire online or by telephone interview. Survey weights were applied before statistical analysis, ensuring responses were representative of cancer survivors in the random sample.


A total of 382 people completed the survey, 27% of those invited to participate. Full-time employment fell from 53% prior to diagnosis to 33% after diagnosis, and average working hours reduced from 38 to 32h per week. Only 48% discussed employment issues with their oncology treatment team, and this was associated with more hours worked (36.7 versus 29.4h). Seventy-six per cent of employers were perceived to have been very supportive and 56% receptive to a phased return-to-work.


This is one of the largest UK registry-based surveys on this subject. Following treatment for cancer, there were significant falls in full-time working and hours worked. Just under half the sample discussed employment issues with their treatment team, and these participants worked significantly more hours. This indicates scope for improvement such as encouraging health professionals to raise work-related issues within time-limited consultations.


Cancer survivor; employment; return-to-work; vocational services; working hours.

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