Navigating the Workplace After Cancer: Key Health Benefits for Survivors

The American Cancer Society projects that there will be over 2 million new cancer cases in 2024 for the first time ever. The incidence of cancer is rising, with 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women projected to have cancer in their lifetime. 

Cancer is not just a personal battle; it also significantly impacts the workplace. For employers, cancer is the top driver of health care costs. Treatment includes specialty drugs and other therapies, which add up to an average of $42,000 in the year following a diagnosis. However, there is more to think about than just treatment costs. While cases are increasing, thanks to a combination of preventive screenings and new therapeutics, cancer death rates have dropped 32%

For Employee Benefits leaders, this means thinking about supporting not just survivors currently in treatment but also those formerly in treatment.

Cancer diagnosis and treatment are life-changing, and for millions of survivors, returning to work post-treatment is a major part of their healing journey. There are an estimated 19 million cancer survivors in the US. Given the prevalence of cancer and its long-lasting effects, it's crucial for employers to make sure that benefits are available to help employees transition into post-treatment life. 

This comprehensive guide delves into four types of benefits employers should consider for their cancer survivors. 

Impact of Cancer Survivorship to Employers

Those with a history of cancer have much higher healthcare costs relative to those without a history of cancer, even years after the diagnosis. For survivors diagnosed within the past year, their healthcare costs are almost five times higher than those with no history of cancer. For survivors diagnosed over a year ago, their healthcare costs are nearly double those without a history of cancer. 

Cancer survivorship can also affect an employee's productivity, morale, and overall wellbeing. Additionally, it may lead to increased work absences and disability claims. 

Four Types of Benefits for Cancer Survivors 

To truly support employees on their cancer journey, employers must provide more than just a paycheck and standard benefits. Employers can enhance the survivorship experience by making sure employees have support across these four areas:

Comprehensive Care Programs

Cancer survivors often require ongoing treatment and rehabilitation services even after their primary treatment ends. These services may include physical therapy to regain strength and mobility, as well as mental health counseling to help cope with the emotional and psychological challenges that come with the cancer journey. Programs that integrate components like nutrition, exercise, and mental health support can help individuals improve overall quality of life. It's important to provide comprehensive support to cancer survivors to ensure their overall well-being and help them thrive beyond their diagnosis.

Management of Side Effects

Cancer treatment can result in the emergence of long-term or late-onset side effects. These side effects often necessitate ongoing and comprehensive management strategies to ensure overall well-being and quality of life for cancer survivors. These strategies are often a mix of care types, from nutrition support to providing ergonomic equipment for physical limitations.

Mental Health Support

Cancer can have a significant psychological impact on individuals, leading to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a result, cancer survivors may require access to mental health services and support to cope with the emotional toll of their condition. 

Employers can provide access to mental health resources, including counseling and therapy options, as well as promoting a culture of understanding and acceptance around mental health challenges in the workplace. By offering these types of benefits, employers can support the holistic well-being of their employees and create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for cancer survivors. 

Support for Return to Work 

Going back to work after cancer treatment is often scary and stressful. Survivors may worry that symptoms could affect their work or that colleagues may view them differently. It is critical to foster a culture of compassion and understanding and to show employees that they are supported in their journey. Setting up accommodations that cater to each person’s specific needs is an important step. This may look like flexible working hours that allow for a more manageable schedule, as well as options to work remotely where they are most comfortable. Employers can also create peer spaces like cancer support groups.

A Vital Cause

Cancer survivors deserve focused employer attention and support. By championing the cause of cancer survivorship in the workplace, you not only uplift your employees during a challenging chapter of their lives, but you also foster a thriving culture of care and commitment. Understanding and acting on the needs of your employees as they grapple with life after cancer can pay dividends for years to come.

Whole Person Care for Cancer Survivorship

Goodpath provides whole-person care for cancer survivors, addressing the physical, mental, and social challenges each member faces. Through our holistic treatment programs, members have access to a dedicated health coach, targeted physical treatments, and digital content and learning modules on our app. To learn more about Goodpath’s cancer survivorship care, visit our Cancer Survivorship page