How Cancer Affects the Workplace

Hearing the word “cancer” from a doctor used to mean a short-term death sentence. However, now with fast rising survival rates, cancer is one of Canada’s fastest-growing chronic diseases. Most people don’t think of it as a “chronic disease.” We are used to hearing more about the death rates and end stages of the disease, rather than the people living with it. Cancer affects the workplace in many ways as a chronic disease, contributing to higher prescription drug costs and lost productivity.

Research from the Canadian Cancer Society shows there were more than 200,000 new cases of all forms of cancer in 2017. Based on current trends and medical technology, 60% of those people will survive at least five years after diagnosis. Death rates have been steadily declining over the last three decades, with an accelerated decline from 2001 to 2013. This has allowed more and more cancer patients to return to work after diagnosis and treatment, whether in a “limited duty” capacity or full time.

While the latest numbers are positive, this disease takes an extreme mental and physical toll on the afflicted. Successful transitions back to work require careful assessments from both the employee and employer. Whether the cancer is in full or partial remission, most patients will have an extensive treatment regimen to follow. This includes frequent appointments with specialists and on-going drug treatments. There are also side-effects to these treatments, both emotional and physical. Fatigue being a big side-effect that not only affects productivity, but the employees mental state as well.

Employers can help reintegration by gradually easing employees back into the job, making changes to the work environment or modifying their responsibilities. This will depend on the individual employee, their diagnosis and the nature of the work. Of the 60% of cancer survivors that will return to work, 40% will require adjustments in work hours or the pace of their job.

Cancer affects the workplace indirectly as well. Rising treatment costs contribute to the increased cost of health benefits. Cancer treatment drugs being some of the most expensive chronic disease medications on the market. Critical illness insurance can mitigate how cancer affects the workplace as well. Cancer-specific policies (often referred to as cancer insurance), cover a number of costs associated with diagnosis and treatment. Consider that most life insurance policies limit the benefits paid for long-term illnesses. Critical illness insurance protects your ability to earn income and helps pay for treatment.

If you are interested in learning more about critical illness insurance, check out our article on Why You Need Cancer Insurance in Canada.

Private employers play a crucial role in fighting this disease, whether it be through comprehensive extended health benefits or simply accommodating the needs of a survivor. If you are interested in learning more about how cancer affects the workplace, or a review of your current health benefits package, we encourage you to contact DENT Benefits today.

The information in this material is derived from various sources. Material is provided for general information and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources; however, no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. Before acting on any of the above, please contact us for benefit, pension and insurance advice based on your corporate or personal circumstances.

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