The number of working age people in the UK who are living with cancer increased by almost 10% between 2010 and 2015, figures from a leading cancer charity suggest.
According to Macmillan Cancer Support, there were around 80,000 more people aged 16 to 65 living with cancer in 2015 than in 2010, with the overall number estimated at 890,000. In 2010, it was estimated that there were 810,000 living with the condition, but this had risen to 890,000 by 2015.
Macmillan reports that working age people now make up around 35% of all people living with cancer. As a result, they are calling on employers to take the necessary steps to prepare for the eventuality of supporting their staff through battles with cancer.
Research shows that more than half (53%) of people with cancer who are employed when they are diagnosed do not know that their employer has a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for them. Whether it is allowing them to adopt flexible working hours or taking time off for medical appointments, the employer must facilitate accordingly.
Sadly, 18% of people living with cancer said they experienced discrimination in the workplace after returning to work because of their illness.
“Staying in work is important to the majority of people as it helps to retain a sense of normality that is essential to their emotional and physical wellbeing during cancer,” said Macmillan Cancer Support’s Liz Egan. “Employers must be aware of their legal obligations under the Equality Act and ensure that there are appropriate policies and processes in place to best support their staff.”
Vital Cancer Test Being Overlooked
The Macmillan findings come at a time when an alarming number of hospitals across the UK are failing to test bowel cancer patients at the time of their diagnosis for a genetic condition called Lynch syndrome.
Figures released by Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer show only 27% of hospitals in England test patients for Lynch syndrome, despite the fact this genetic condition increases a person’s lifetime risk of bowel cancer by up to 80%. It is also associated with a greater risk of developing other cancers, such as ovarian cancer, stomach cancer and womb cancer.
Furthermore, people with Lynch syndrome are not just more likely to get cancer at some point in their lives, they are also at higher risk of getting it at a younger age. The average age of diagnosis is just 45 years old.
The two bowel cancer charities say there are around 175,000 people with Lynch syndrome in the UK, but 95% do not know they have it.
In February 2017, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended that everyone in England who is newly diagnosed with bowel cancer should be tested for Lynch syndrome.
However, only 22 hospitals (17%) in England follow best practice and test bowel cancer patients for Lynch syndrome at the point of their diagnosis.
More people than ever are facing the gruelling task of juggling their cancer, their jobs and their financial commitments. Moreover, the fact many hospitals are not testing for Lynch syndrome means vital early cancer care opportunities are being missed.
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