Paid Leave Improves Patients' Ability to Complete Treatment

Not all employees with cancer get paid leave, but those who did saw better health and financial outcomes.

Patients with cancer whose workplaces offered paid medical leave had better physical and financial health, and were more likely to complete their treatments, according to a recent study conducted by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

Survey responses were collected from more than 800 people who were affected by cancer — 405 of them were patients at some point (113 current patients and 292 survivors) and 400 were caregivers of patients or survivors who were diagnosed within the past 12 years.

Fifty-one percent of patients and survivors reported being given family/medical leave, which allows for extended time off beyond sick days. Within this group, 80 percent were able to complete their treatment; 70 percent with leave said they could better manage their side effects; and 64 percent reported that paid leave helped them financially be able to afford treatments.

“Having access to paid leave is important when thinking about the entirety of cancer patients’ needs,” Chris Hansen, ACS CAN president said in a statement. “Cancer is an incredibly intense, time consuming and costly disease. Being able to take time off to receive and complete necessary treatment, or to care for a loved one undergoing treatment, without sacrificing one’s career or overall economic well-being makes a difference.”

Despite its benefits, not all patients, survivors and caregivers who were given family/medical leave actually used it. In fact, about half of patients (52 percent), survivors (54 percent) and caregivers (53 percent) utilized leave.

Also noted in the survey, patients and survivors who earned higher salaries or worked for larger companies were more likely to have leave benefit.

“The issue is that those who work for small employers or have lower wage jobs and are more likely to need that leave and have fewer resources available to compensate if they don’t have access to it,” said Hansen.

And while more than half of patients and survivors were granted medical/family leave, only about four in 10 caregivers had it. For those who did, nearly 60 percent reported that they were able to attend more of their loved one’s doctors’ visits, and also that it improved their overall ability to care for their loved one. Further, about 40 percent of caregivers said that paid leave improved their own health during caregiving.