Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 71–77 | Cite as

Helping Cancer Survivors Return to Work: What Providers Tell Us About the Challenges in Assisting Cancer Patients with Work Questions

  • Manpreet BainsEmail author
  • Joanna Yarker
  • Ziv Amir
  • Philip Wynn
  • Fehmidah Munir


Introduction Cancer patients and survivors report receiving little work-related advice from healthcare providers about how to manage their work during treatment or when to return after completing primary treatment. This study explores the extent to which health professionals involved with colorectal cancer patients address work matters during active treatment. Methods Eighteen health professionals from oncology, occupational health and general practice were interviewed. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis. Results Health professionals provide conflicting and limited information to patients regarding ability to work during treatment, or when to return to work thereafter. Lack of knowledge about impacts of treatment and symptoms on work ability and sustainability, particularly in relation to different occupations and work tasks resulted in providers offering minimal guidance to patients. Current practices relied on providers’ previous experiences with employed patients, rather than a sound evidence-base. Conclusions The type of work-related information given to patients by providers is not systematic. It is necessary to develop a better knowledge base about the impacts of cancer and its treatment on work ability, sustainability and return to work that would help providers to offer more tailored advice to patients, consistently. Therefore, it is appropriate to recommend that formal training for providers is necessary. Enhancing the quality of information and training for health professionals to provide better work-related support to patients during the early stages of treatment could enable individuals to manage their work more effectively and facilitate a successful transition from patient to survivor.


Cancer Return to work facilitation Work-related advice Rehabilitation Professional-patient relations Qualitative 



We would like to thank the health professionals for taking part in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manpreet Bains
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joanna Yarker
    • 2
  • Ziv Amir
    • 3
  • Philip Wynn
    • 4
  • Fehmidah Munir
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of Epidemiology and Public HealthUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, GoldsmithsUniversity of LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Macmillan Research Unit, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, Jean McFarlane BuildingUniversity Place, University of ManchesterManchesterUK
  4. 4.Durham County CouncilDurhamUK
  5. 5.School of Sport, Exercise and Health SciencesLoughborough UniversityLoughboroughUK

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