Working after cancer: in-depth perspectives from a setting with limited employment protection policies

Yek Ching Kong, Negina Rauf, Shridevi Subramaniam, Ros Suzanna Bustamam, Li Ping Wong, Gwo Fuang Ho, Hafizah Zaharah, Matin Mellor, Cheng Har Yip, Nirmala Bhoo-Pathy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: A considerable proportion of individuals who are diagnosed with cancer are at a working age. We aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges, and arising needs related to working after cancer in a setting with limited employment protection policies. Methods: Focus group discussions were conducted with cancer patients who were diagnosed at least 1 year prior to recruitment, and either had paid work, were self-employed, currently unemployed, or currently retired (N = 66). Results: Three main themes were identified: (1) loss of income: While some participants were entitled for a 1-year cancer-specific sick leave, many other participants recounted having insufficient paid sick leave, forcing them to take prolonged unpaid leave to complete treatment; (2) dealing with side effects of cancer and its treatment: The need for workplace accommodations was highlighted including flexible working hours, lighter workloads, and dedicated rest areas to enable patients to cope better; (3) Discrimination and stigma at workplace: Some participants mentioned being passed over on a promotion, getting demoted, or being forced to resign once their cancer diagnosis was disclosed, highlighting an urgent need to destigmatize cancer in the workplace. Conclusion: In settings with limited employment protection policies, a cancer diagnosis severely impacts the working experiences of patients, leading to financial loss. Urgent interventions and legislative reforms are needed in these settings to address the unmet employment needs of cancer survivors. Implications for Cancer Survivors: This study may facilitate planning of local solutions to fulfill the unmet employment needs following cancer, such as return-to-work navigation services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706-712
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number5
Early online date22 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported through an unrestricted educational grant from PhAMA (Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


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