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Successful Return to Work for Cancer Survivors – What is the Research Telling Us to Do?

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With advances in diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the number of cancer survivors able to work is increasing. Currently, about half of cancer survivors are of working age. While 63% cancer are able to return to work in the first year, 26%-53% need stop working or loss their job 6 years post diagnosis.

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There is a need for all involved in the return to work process (cancer survivors, health care providers, insurance representative and employers) to provide better support. While the research in the area of work cancer is still young, there are insights from the research and practical guidelines that can guide all stakeholders with this process.

Take away messages:

  • Employers can provide support and accommodations that can promote return to work.
  • Healthcare providers and insurance providers can play a more active role in supporting return to work.
  • Cancer survivors can take steps to address concerns about return to work.

Learning Outcomes

Research-informed tips for cancer survivors, health care providers and employers that can be implemented to foster a successful return to work for cancer survivors
What cancer and work intervention studies are telling us on how to implement a return to work program
What standards for practice have been developed to date that can guide a return to work for cancer survivors
An overview of parts of Cancer and Work website that have been developed based on the research


Christine Maheu
Christine Maheu is an Associate Professor at the Ingram School of Nursing at McGill University and an affiliate scientist at the McGill University Health Centre Research Institute, Cancer Program. Dr. Maheu research interests include developing interventions that address the following cancer survivorship issues: return to work, fear of cancer recurrence, managing cancer-distress, uncertainty, and coping. Dr. Maheu is the Co-Director of Cancer and Work (, a Canadian bilingual website created with a multidisciplinary team and expert writers to address the gap in return-to-work support for cancer survivors. She is currently co-leading a clinical trial for the management of fear of cancer recurrence with breast and gynecological cancer survivors and developing cancer and work tool to assess readiness for return to work. She holds funds from the Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Dr. Maheu received excellence awards in nursing research (2013, 2015, 2016) from Ovarian Cancer Canada, Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology, and Association Québécoise des infirmières en Oncologie (AQIO)/Quebec Association of Nurses in Oncology. Dr. Maheu is the recipient of a junior 2 FRQ-S career award. Christine is the director-at-large for research for the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology/Association Canadienne des infirmières en oncologie (CANO/ACIO), a national organization with a mission to advance oncology nursing excellence through practice, education, research, and leadership for the benefit of all Canadians. Christine has a Ph.D. in nursing with an emphasis in psychosocial oncology from the University of British Columbia, a Post-doctorate from the University of Toronto, and a Master’s and Bachelor degree in nursing from l’Université de Montréal. In her spare time, Christine enjoys marathon training and spending time with her husband and three teenage children.
Maureen Parkinson
Ms. Maureen Parkinson has worked for over 25 years as the BC Cancer Agency provincial vocational rehabilitation counselor. Previously, she worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for a public rehabilitation hospital, a vocational rehabilitation consultant for insurance and law firms, and as instructor/facilitator of job search and career exploration programs for contracted services by Service Canada. She has been the co-lead of website and co-authored a commission paper for the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology called Cancer and Work: A Canadian Perspective. She has developed job search and return to work seminars for cancer patients and developed Cancer and Returning to Work: A Practical Guide for Cancer Patients. She has been involved in research of cancer survivors focusing on return to work, rehabilitation, quality of life, and cognitive challenges. She is a Canadian Certified Rehabilitation Counsellor and has completed the Certified Return to Work Coordinator Program and is a sessional instructor for the Cancer and Worker Support course offered by Pacific Coast University. Maureen earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology from UBC and a Master’s in counseling from the University of Toronto. In her spare time, Maureen enjoys biking and swimming.

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