Balancing Work and Breast Cancer

Wednesday, October 05, 2016
A breast cancer diagnosis leads to many uncertainties; survivors often talk about the list of questions that run through their minds in the moments after learning of a diagnosis: “Will I live? What will treatment entail? How much will it cost? Can I keep working?”. This last question is one that we are working every day to help patients and survivors answer. At Cancer and Careers our mission is to empower and educate people with cancer to thrive in their workplace, by providing expert advice, interactive tools and educational events.

Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in women, with an estimated 1.7 million new cases diagnosed each year worldwide.1 Supporting women with breast cancer in the workplace is imperative. In 2014 we commissioned a survey in partnership with Pfizer to thoroughly examine the perspectives of working women with breast cancer, healthcare professionals and employers on the topic of breast cancer and the workplace. We found that “77% of working women with breast cancer, including those with metastatic disease, feel that working aids in their recovery – a view shared almost unanimously by healthcare professionals, who were also surveyed (92%)”.2

A breast cancer diagnosis is further complicated when it is metastatic. In recent years there has been increased focus on what it means to live with metastatic breast cancer and how we can support women who want to keep working after this diagnosis. But there is still a huge need for improvement in the support that women with breast cancer get in the workplace. According to a 2014 study by the University of Michigan, “Nearly one-third of breast cancer survivors who were working when they began treatment were unemployed four years later. Women who received chemotherapy were most affected”.3

At Cancer and Careers we provide support to help survivors determine the best path forward when it comes to work after cancer. This path is going to look different for everyone, just as every diagnosis and treatment plan is unique. Some people will continue to work through treatment, others will take time off, while others may decide to look for an entirely new job or career path. To help survivors determine their path, we provide numerous free resources, tools and programs, including: publications in English and Spanish; job search tools; Professional Development Micro-Grants; accredited programs for healthcare professionals; community events; national and regional Conferences; Balancing Work & Cancer Webinars; and more.

All of our resources are free for cancer patients, survivors, healthcare professionals, caregivers and anyone else touched by cancer. Our website is truly the hub of all of our information. On our site you can write in to our career coaches with any questions you have about navigating work after cancer, submit your resume for a free review, read about other people’s work and cancer journeys in our collective diary, peruse our Newsfeed to stay up-to-date on the issues surrounding work and cancer, and find a whole host of resources dedicated to this topic.

Every year during Breast Cancer Awareness Month there is a huge focus on prevention, early detection and finding a cure. All of these causes are incredibly important and worthy of the attention that they receive, but it’s equally critical to raise awareness of the survivorship issues that come up after a diagnosis, such as supporting women with breast cancer in their work.
1. Pfizer Press Release: New Survey Finds Majority of Women with Breast Cancer Who Work Want to Do So Even While Undergoing Treatment. December 2, 2014.
2. Pfizer Press Release: New Survey Finds Majority of Women with Breast Cancer Who Work Want to Do So Even While Undergoing Treatment. December 2, 2014.
3. University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center Press Release: Unemployment common after breast cancer treatment. April 28, 2014.
For more information and to access the resources listed above, visit:
Sarah Goodell is a Manager of Programs at Cancer and Careers. In her role she manages a range of programs and events, including the Underserved Regions Initiative and the Midwest Conference on Work & Cancer, as well as coordinating PR efforts and social media. She also manages the newsletter, online career coaching and research projects and is frequently on the road for various CAC programs and events.
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