Cancer patients face work-related stress due to lack of help, says charity

An “unacceptable” number of cancer patients are dealing with work-related stress because of a lack of support, a charity has said.

More than a quarter (27%) of people with the disease received no assistance to help them return to work after their diagnosis from employers, the government or the NHS, a Macmillan Cancer Support survey found.

Meanwhile, one in 10 (10%) said they felt pressured into going back to work before they were ready and 10% said they felt the need to cover up symptoms such as fatigue and sickness when there.

The charity warned employers that they could be breaking the law by not supporting people diagnosed with the disease.

Cancer diagnosis is classed as a disability under equality legislation, which means patients are entitled to reasonable changes in the workplace.

This includes time off for medical appointments and a more flexible working routine to help deal with symptoms.

“Every two minutes, somebody in the UK is diagnosed with cancer and many of these will have to deal with their illness whilst holding down a job,” Moira Fraser-Pearce, director of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said.

“We know just how important it is to many people to work during their cancer treatment or return to employment afterwards.

“A lack of support means an unacceptable amount of people are facing unnecessary work-related stress and anxiety, including potentially losing their jobs which can have a detrimental impact on their finances.”

Macmillan Cancer Support said its work support service for cancer patients had seen a 74% rise in demand.

Between June 2017 and May 2018, a total of 1,711 calls were received by the service, up from 982 calls in the same period the previous year.

Ghazala Anjam, team leader at the charity’s service, said: “Cancer can turn someone’s life upside down and completely disrupt their work.

“Staying in or returning to work can be a challenge, especially if there is a lack of awareness about people’s rights at work and that support is available to help both them and their employers.

“Sadly, we get calls from people with cancer who are returning to work before they feel ready for reasons including running out of sick leave, financial commitments or fear they may lose their job.

“We’ve also heard that some people feel a need to cover up their cancer symptoms at work so that colleagues don’t treat them differently.”

A total of 1,507 people in the UK took part in the charity’s survey.

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