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After a cancer, returning to work can often be difficult. According to a study, it is essential to support patients in remission during this period. Here are the reasons.

Months or even years later, side effects of cancer treatments can affect professional abilities when returning to work. In addition to chronic fatigue, decreased physical strength and impaired memory and/or concentration, patients in remission are also facing other difficulties that may complicate their return to active life: workload, medical follow-up, inappropriate reactions from management and colleagues... According to the Societal Cancer Observatory, one in three people loses or leaves their jobs within two years of a cancer diagnosis (1).

After cancer treatment:

– 61 % of people feel more tired than before
– 41 % suffer from sleep disorders;
– 33 % memory and concentration disorders;
– 14 % of chronic pain.


The importance of assisting patients

For many patients in remission, returning to work is a return to normalcy. "Returning to work means finding a place, becoming again "someone who matters", not only in the company, but more broadly in the society. It allows us to move on to something else, to return to a normal life without immediately restoring our previous life," according to the Institut Curie. "Active life also provides landmarks. By working again, you become an actor in your life again.
However, support in this process is insufficient. A study conducted with people with cancer showed the importance of a comprehensive, collaborative and person-centered approach to facilitate their reintegration into the workplace (2). For the Institut Curie, "the success of an employee's return to work is not only measured at the time of the recovery, but is assessed over time. Support in the first few months helps to maintain employment. Among the actions that can be taken to facilitate the return to work after cancer: job accommodation.


Difficulties in reconciling health and work

To facilitate return to work, a shift arrangement can be proposed by the occupational physician. "A modified position allows the employee to honour his employment contract while being protected. The occupational physician makes recommendations for an adjustment of the workstation. Then the employer makes proposals based on these recommendations," explains the Institut Curie.

A study carried out with 1,518 individuals revealed, in a statistical way, the determinants of return to work after cancer and more specifically the impact of changes in working conditions (3). It has been shown that "the impact of these accommodations on return to work is slightly greater for women than for men," say the study's researchers. On the other hand, thanks to qualitative interviews conducted with 38 people who have returned to work after cancer, the research highlights difficulties in reconciling health and work, during and after the shift adjustment period provided for by labour law. These difficulties are mainly related to constraints related to work, the type of job held, the end of the contract, care and daily life. Therefore, working after cancer is similar to a challenge. For the researchers in the study, "the disease can endanger work, and work, by testing the body, can endanger health. One of the characteristics of this challenge is its uncertainty. It has an impact on employment as well as on work and personal health. “.



(1) Rapport 2014 de l’Observatoire sociétal des cancers

(2) Morrison T. L. et Thomas R. L. Survivors’ experiences of return to work following cancer: A photovoice study. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, mai 2014. Volume 81, issue 3, pages 163-172.

(3) Chassaing K. et al. Travailler avec un cancer. Regards croisés sur les dispositifs d'aménagement des conditions de travail et sur les ressources mobilisées pour tenir ensemble travail et santé. Rapport de recherche n° 63, Centre d'études de l'emploi. 2011, 144 p. 〈hal-00981764〉.