Integrated Absence Management: Cancer and Disability

DMEC Staff@Work

Cancer and Disability: Making the Transition from Successful Treatment to RTW

Cancer and DisabilityBy Glenn Pransky, MD

Scientific Advisor
Lincoln Financial Group

By Paul Barker, MD

Regional Medical Officer
Lincoln Financial Group

A diagnosis of cancer was once the beginning of the end for many people — and often it guaranteed approval for an early “retirement” onto Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Over the last three decades, however, the proportion of the U.S. working-age population who are “cancer survivors” (anyone alive who was ever diagnosed with cancer) has increased substantially.1,2

More than two-thirds of these survivors are able to return to work (RTW),3 but they often face significant challenges. Lower likelihood of RTW is associated with several factors: more advanced stage of cancer (such as more aggressive brain, lung, and liver tumors), extensive surgery, and significant treatment side effects.4 On the other hand, predictive factors of successful RTW include younger age, higher education, less physically demanding work, fewer comorbidities, shorter sick leave, and more complete functional recovery.5

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