With the exception of skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women. According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of their lives. The good news is cancer survivors are spending less time out of work compared to years past, and some are able to keep working while receiving treatment.
An employer that offers reasonable work accommodations will help employees find success at staying on the job while receiving treatment. Supportive employers also make a big difference in recovery, along with early detection and advances in medical treatment.
“Work often provides a sense of normalcy and support for employees with breast cancer during a time of uncertainty,” said Mandy Stogner, senior leave and disability consultant at Colonial Life. “This is why the role of employers is so important during diagnosis, treatment, and return to work.”
Employers: 8 ways to better support employees with cancer
Aside from grappling with a diagnosis, cancer patients often face a wide range of side effects from treatment. These include a weakened immune system, fatigue and strained focus. Since employee needs may change over the course of treatment, employers should provide ongoing support.
- Respond fast and offer resources.
- Understand physical limits and how those impact their role.
- Clearly define work duties.
- Create a flexible schedule or reduced workload.
- Adjust workstations so they don’t have to stand or sit for too long.
- Build in extra breaks so they can fight fatigue.
- Communicate often to keep the employee engaged.
- Provide feedback and coaching on performance.
Cancer and COVID-19
Today’s pandemic creates even more challenges for people with cancer. Most cancer treatments suppress the immune system. This puts cancer patients at higher risk for serious illness caused by COVID-19.
Employers should consider providing adjustments that allow physical and social distancing, remote work or modified workspaces to mitigate transmission. This is especially important during stages of treatment that suppress the immune system.
Boost your benefits
Cancer insurance can provide a financial safety net that can assist with covering cancer-related expenses that medical insurance doesn’t cover, such as deductibles and co-pays, out-of-network treatment, home health services and more. In 2019 alone, Colonial Life made more than 286,000 cancer claims payments totaling more than $158 million to customers to help them cover the costs of treatment, medicines, recovery and everyday expenses.