Breast Cancer: Economic Impact and Labour Force Re-entry
Report commissioned by the Canadian Breast Cancer Network
We may thing of breast cancer as a health condition, but it is also an economic condition. A diagnosis of breast cancer can have an enormous cost for women and men living with the disease and for their families as they have to take time off work for treatment and recovery.
The economic impact was felt to be significant with 80% of respondents stating they experienced a financial impact from the disease. Many respondents were unaware of the high cost of the disease until they began treatment. Like many Canadians, they had assumed that public health care would co er most of their costs. The economic reality came as a shock.
The report indicated respondents felt the Federal Government should improve Employment Insurance Benefits and provide more generous tax breaks. It was noted that the average duration of treatment was 38 weeks and 2/3 of patients took 16 or more weeks off work. As Employment Insurance (EI) benefits last for a maximum of 15 weeks there is an average gap of 23 weeks without this coverage. As well, it was noted that the benefit was at 55% of salary level and judged by many to be woefully inadequate. In addition, the federal Employment Insurance program’s eligibility excludes those without enough accumulated work hours, the self-employed and homemakers (side note: next week a few notes about, creating a caring economics). The general population survey reveled 75% of Canadians support an increase in the duration of EI sickness benefits for persons living with breast and other cancers.
Respondents had mixed experiences of returning to work. 20% returned to work before they were ready because of financial pressure. Those who were able to make a gradual return to work were more likely to report a positive experience.
Almost half the respondents report a reduced physical ability to work after treatment and 1/5 were forced to quit due to work-related restrictions, side effects from treatments, fatigue and pain.
The health and psychosocial impact of financial burden was significant, with the most common experiences being stress and sleeplessness. Chemotherapy has an economic impact. Those who received chemo had the greatest drop in family income, took more time off work and were more likely to quit their jobs. “Chemo Brain” was identified as a challenge in returning to work.
People can survive breast cancer, but the loss of work or return to work at a lower salary can have long-term effects which creates challenges for those re-entering the workforce. The Canadian general population who took the survey indicates that Canadians would be receptive to measures which ease the financial burden of the disease.
The complete Canadian Breast Cancer network commissioned report “Breast Cancer: Economic Impact and labour Force Re-Entry” is available online at:
Another website that has some very good suggestions for help is: