There is no diagnosis in all of medicine worse than this one: “You have cancer.” There is no preparation for it — for the weight of such a truth to fall on a patient’s shoulders. For tens of millions of North Americans every year, that out-of-a-movie conversation with their doctors couldn’t be more real.
In these Doctors Health E-Bulletins, we continue as much as possible to present positive findings in the realm of cancer. Amid glaring negative factors, such as chemotherapy side effects and a potential death much sooner than expected, we bring you the small stories with large implications: the cellular advance that could pave the way for a brand-new cancer-fighting drug, the herb that can reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy, the many ways to help shield your body from many cancers, and so on.
Here is another one. Researchers in Pennsylvania have found that over the long term, people who survive cancer end up working at their job about the same number of hours as anyone else. In other words, survivors can reclaim the life they had before the disease struck. That is a reason for optimism, and every cancer patient should know it.
At first when one is diagnosed and starts treatment, work (and regularity of life) suffers. But if you take a long view, cancer survivors can get their life back in the end. There are about 10 million survivors in the U.S. alone. Because of all we’ve learned about the disease, cancer is not as fatal as it once was.
Most studies have addressed the short-term impact on people’s productivity. Nearly half of all patients stop working while being treated for cancer. The new study addressed the employment effects of cancer for those who survive.
The study group included 500 adults diagnosed with cancer between 1997 and 1999. In 2002, the group was aged between 55 and 65 years old. They were compared to information on 4,000 workers who did not have the disease. Researchers found that survivors who remained cancer-free worked only about four hours less than the 4,000 people who hadn’t had cancer.
Cancer patients can reclaim their jobs, which goes a long way toward saying they can reclaim their life. As a side note, this information reassures employers that a cancer patient can come back to work when the disease has been dealt with.