In the last decades, work disability prevention in people with a cancer diagnosis has received growing attention worldwide. Approximately 14 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed globally each year with every 1 in 4 people ever diagnosed with cancer. The prevalence of cancer survivors within working age is expected to grow because of an ageing population, higher retirement age and continued improvements in treatment of many forms of cancer.
Almost half of all cancer survivors are younger than 65 years and of working age. Most cancer survivors will want to resume work after treatment but, regrettably, not all survivors are able to do so and unemployment is 40% higher than in people who never had cancer.
For this reason, innovative interventions that could mitigate the economic impact of surviving cancer and improve the quality of life of survivors are urgently required. In the past two decades, several interventions have been developed with approaches that were either psychological (e.g. counselling), physical (e.g. physical exercise, clinical interventions), vocational (e.g. job placement services, vocational rehabilitation), occupational (e.g. educating employers, implementation of work adjustments), and/or legislative (e.g. anti-discrimination acts) in their emphasis.
Multidisciplinary interventions have been proved to be most effective in return to work and work retention of cancer survivors. However, research has shown that collaboration between stakeholders can be challenging. Positive results can nevertheless be achieved when barriers for collaboration are removed.
There is a growing international awareness towards the work situation of cancer survivors. International networks uniting professionals, researchers, employers and stakeholders concentrate on disseminating research knowledge and best practice. Collaboration between countries on the development of evidence-based, validated interventions for work participation of cancer survivors to prevent unemployment will be highly beneficial.