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2014年5月26日 (月)

がん患者の就労 治療との両立支援が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:07 pm, May 25, 2014
Cancer treatment must be partnered with employment security for patients
がん患者の就労 治療との両立支援が必要だ

The number of cancer patients who have both the motivation and the ability to work has been markedly increasing. It is essential to ensure workplace environments that are conducive to helping people with cancer maintain both their medical treatment and their careers.

The five-year survival rate of people diagnosed with cancer has currently improved to nearly 60 percent due to medical advances, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The number of those who have undergone treatment while being employed is about 320,000 nationwide, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the number of working-age people who develop cancer has surpassed 200,000 annually. A survey has shown that one out of every three cancer patients on the payroll at the time of diagnosis has quit work or been fired. Many such patients have presumably been leaving their jobs involuntarily.

The problem is that no more than 10 percent of the nation’s businesses have addressed the task of fully supporting employees with cancer to ensure their employment, such as by exempting them from working overtime. More than half the country’s firms are believed to have failed to even assess how many of their employees have been diagnosed with cancer, mainly because management often finds it difficult to inquire about such personal matters as employees’ health problems.

The fact that cancer has now become a “protracted chronic disease” and that there are a large number of cancer patients capable of working has not been sufficiently recognized by society yet. There seem to be many cases in which workplaces considered it only natural for an employee to quit if diagnosed with cancer. Patients often fail to tell their colleagues or superiors about the disease due to fear of their reactions.

Many success stories

Cancer therapies and changes in a patient’s physical condition can differ among individuals, but there are numerous instances of the disease becoming relatively stabilized after a certain period of time. Many people continue working in posts of responsibility while seeing a doctor regularly. The government should redouble its efforts to disseminate accurate information about cancer and promote public awareness.

For patients in the working-age population, continuing to work can help them find a reason to live and motivate them to continue treatment. In addition, some may find it necessary to keep working due to the high cost of treatment.

Under its Basic Plan to Promote Cancer Control Programs, established by the Cabinet in 2012, the government has cited measures to support working-age cancer patients, such as helping expand their employment opportunities, as a high-priority task.

A trial program that began in fiscal 2013 assigns counselors to Hello Work public job placement offices to oversee searches for job openings suited to cancer patients’ circumstances. A system has also been launched to dispatch counselors who specialize in helping cancer patients, sending them to patients’ homes from hub medical institutions for cancer treatment. Such support measures should be expanded.

Of course, the intermediary role that businesses will play in this area is highly significant.

Many patients appear to want flexible vacation and temporary leave of absence systems designed to accommodate their medical treatment needs, including paid time off on an hourly basis and shorter working hours. Corporate systems should also be created to make it easier for employees with cancer to candidly consult their superiors on such matters as lighter workloads or job transfers, with medical specialists taking part.

It is further necessary to beef up efforts for the prevention and early detection of cancer by such means as increasing the percentage of company employees who undergo cancer examinations.

Given that the graying of personnel is certain to advance, as the years of employment have been extended at many workplaces, the number of cancer patients who continue to work is bound to increase further in the future. Enabling patients to keep working in accordance with their motivation and physical strength will also help maintain the vigor of society and the national economy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 25, 2014)


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