THURSDAY, Sept. 15, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer survivors' quality of life at work has improved dramatically over the past few decades due to medical and societal changes, according to a new review of data on the subject.
Better treatments, new antidiscrimination laws and major changes in perceptions about living with and beyond cancer enable cancer survivors to thrive at work, wrote author Barbara Hoffman of Rutgers University School of Law.
Hoffman is also a cancer survivor and a leading advocate of cancer survivors' legal rights.
Before the 1970s, many cancer survivors were faced with discrimination, few support services and limited treatment options, Hoffman said. But while some workers still experience work problems when they're diagnosed with cancer, the new report found a steady decline in such difficulties over the past three decades.
Hoffman noted that the five-year survival rate for the top 15 cancers improved to 64 percent in the period 1995 to 2000, compared to 43 percent for men and 57 percent for women in 1975-79.
Improved survival rates means that more cancer patients and survivors are in the U.S. workforce.
"Never before has cancer affected so many employed adults," Hoffman noted.
Of the 3.7 million cancer survivors in the United States in 2001, 38 percent were working age (20 to 64 years old). Many cancer survivors work not only for the money, but also for the accompanying health insurance, self-esteem and social support, Hoffman pointed out.
The review appears in the September/October issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about life after cancer treatment.