Cancer Survivorship Issues: the disease is just the beginning...

The day that a cancer patient receives a clean bill of health is a momentous and joyous day--and those patients who are lucky enough to reach that point should be able to make steps towards regaining the life that they had pre-diagnosis. Unfortunately, many cancer patients find that their difficulties only begin with the actual disease as many survivors face significant problems with rejoining the workforce.

The Cancer Blog recently posted a feature on the discrimination that cancer patients face post-treatment:

One woman wanted to return to work after treatment for breast cancer and her managers asked her to resign for her own good. They were merely looking out for her, they said. Another woman was told she had become a bad investment.

The BBC News International News Service investigated workplace discrimination among cancer survivors earlier this month:

The other cases the DRC has handled include a woman working for a major high street retailer who was dismissed because she was not able to give a return date to work after her radiotherapy treatment finished.

Another woman who had a mastectomy was told that time off because of illness or disability was a disciplinary matter and anyone having more than four sickness periods a year would be dismissed.

And a woman who worked for a security firm for 19 years was told she was a "bad investment" because she needed more time off for reconstructive surgery.

Perhaps most shockingly, a woman had a job offer withdrawn by a cancer charity after a medical revealed she had breast cancer six years previously.

To respond to these and other survivorship concerns, the National Cancer Institute has published a Survivor's Bill of Rights. An excerpt is below:

In the work place, survivors have the right to equal job opportunities. This means they have the right:

* To aspire to jobs worthy of their skills, and for which they are trained and experienced, and thus not to have to accept jobs they would not have considered before their cancer experience;
* To be hired, promoted, and accepted on return to work, according to their individual abilities and qualifications, and not according to "cancer" or "disability" stereotypes with "reasonable accommodation," under federal and state law, such as changes in duties or hours, which allows them to work while receiving medical treatment without falling into a survivors' "Catch-22"--too ill to work, but too healthy to qualify as "disabled" and so entitled to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act;
* To privacy about their medical histories.

Please take the time to read the Bill of Rights. in their entirety and promote awareness. Everyone, including cancer survivors, should feel that they are welcome and valuable in their chosen field of work.


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