Almost half of cancer patients returning to work feel their diagnosis has had a negative impact on their career, according to a new study by the Economic and Social Research Institute.

The research found that women, younger workers, the self-employed and those working in the public sector were more likely to report a negative impact.

The study, funded by the Irish Cancer Society, included a survey of 377 people affected by cancer between 2010 and 2020. 

It found that while seven in ten people felt supported by both their employers and manager in returning to their job, nearly half of respondents felt that their cancer diagnosis negatively affected career prospects.

One third of the respondents reported negative experiences, such as reduction in salary or bonus (11%) on their return or being overlooked for promotion (7%).

Factors that helped people return to work included a phased return (44%), help and support from colleagues (43%), help and support from employer/manager (41%), and time off for medical appointments (40%).

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Anne Marie Davy returned to work in 2018 following major cancer surgery.

She said she can relate to many of the study's findings through her own experiences since then.

"I wanted to get on with things and get back to normal, which was important to me, but there is a stigma.

"It frustrates me when people make presumptions about what I can and can't do, and I find that someone in my position ends up often having to fight their own battles," she said.

Almost four in ten referenced financial need as their main reason for returning to work, an area that must be addressed, according to Irish Cancer Society Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh.

She said returning to work after a cancer diagnosis is often very important in a patient's recovery as it restores a sense of purpose for many.

Ms Morrogh said: "It is concerning, however, that so many people felt they had to return to work sooner than they might have wished because of financial challenges.

"We know from previous research the crippling financial impact a diagnosis can have on people and their families.

"The Irish Cancer Society wants all patients to feel supported after a diagnosis, and their quality of life, finances and career prospects should not be affected by their illness."

The Irish Cancer Society has published a series of recommendations for Government, employers and trade unions, along with establishing a new online benefits and entitlements hub with information on State supports for those taking time off work or returning to work.

Lead ESRI researcher on the study Dr Sheelah Connolly said: "The research suggests that many people diagnosed with cancer have a relatively positive experience when returning to employment.

"However, returning to employment can be challenging for several reasons, including ongoing physical and mental health issues.

"Employers can facilitate the return through open communication with the employee and supporting a flexible return based on the individual's needs."