Are cancer survivors more likely to be unemployed?


There are few industries in the U.S. that aren't feeling the crunch of the sour economic times these days, and few people are 100 percent confident in their job stability.So when a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that cancer survivors had a higher risk of unemployment than persons without a history of cancer, it made me wonder... has the risk changed since the current recession, which experts say started in December 2007? The study was based on about 36 studies conducted around the world between 1966 and June 2008. The study found that survivors were 1.37 times more likely to be unemployed than healthy people (33.8 percent compared with 15.2 percent), and the risk was higher in survivors of breast, gastrointestinal, and gynecological cancers than compared with other cancers, such as prostate, testicular, or hematological cancers, which did not appear to have a higher unemployment risk than people without a cancer diagnosis.In conclusion, authors offered a suggestion that "development of interventions involving clinicians and other professional to enhance participation in the work life of cancer survivors is needed."After talking to a few legal experts for Unemployment Hits Cancer Survivors Harder, the news wasn't comforting. Apparently, discrimination is hard to prove if a survivor is one of many who are caught in rounds of layoffs. But knowing your rights, including disability rights and anti-discrimination laws, should help. If your employer doesn't know why you're fatigued all the time or you don't ask for a workplace accommodation for coming in late on treatment days, you may not be covered under these protections. In those situations, what you don't tell your boss can hurt you. And aside from the legal aspect--any layoff is stressful, but for a person with a history of cancer, there are issues that may weigh heavier for survivors, such as health care benefits and paying off lingering medical bills. Cancer and Careers, a website for working women with cancer, has great resources for both men and women, including job-searching advice. The Cancer Legal Defense Fund has tons of information, webinars, and a toll-free number for those with questions about discrimination, disability insurance, employment rights, and more. It was nice to learn that discrimination has decreased over the decades, and accommodations, legal rights, and understanding for cancer survivors has increased, but I'm sure everyone, especially those with a past cancer diagnosis, has that nagging thought in the back of their head of "What if..."--or worse, "What now?"

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