world cancer day with purple ribbon on world map

World Cancer Day may fall on February 4th this year, but with a lifetime risk of cancer affecting 1 in 5 men and 1 in 6 women, cancer is a daily experience for many.1 Cancer is the second most common cause of mortality in the world,2 and it seems to be everywhere: Who among us hasn’t been touched by cancer in our friends, families, neighbors, coworkers, or even ourselves? It’s a disease that affects us all.

Last year, more than 1.7 million people were diagnosed with cancer in the United States (that’s more than 4,750 Americans per day).3,4 Lung cancer tops the list of global incidence, followed by breast and colorectal cancers; this oncological trio is responsible for one-third of all new cancer diagnoses, which exceeded a total of 18.1 million new cases worldwide in 2018.1 However, it’s not all bad news — amazingly, U.S. cancer mortality plummeted 26% between 1991 and 2015,5 which means that more people are prevailing over cancer than ever before. Increasingly, what was once considered a death sentence is becoming a survivable chronic condition.

Active survival

When cancer is diagnosed —hopefully in its earliest stage — start helping those affected by reading up on MDGuidelines topics specific to the type of cancer. During active cancer treatment, most individuals are physically and emotionally overwhelmed, yet they want to feel as normal as they can despite grappling with adverse treatment-related effects.6 In the workplace, providing accommodations to help individuals stay as active and independent as possible by reducing physically-demanding tasks, enabling periodic rest breaks, and allowing time off as needed to attend the myriad medical appointments that cancer care dictates is valuable support.

When active treatment ends, quality of life is associated with engagement on social and occupational levels.6 However, it’s not easy for many patients: Multimodal therapies that include the trifecta of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are linked to increased disability durations and indefinite work absences despite patients’ desire to remain independent and productive.7,8 Symptoms such as pain, emotional distress, depression, and fatigue may present across cancer types and influence an individual’s ability to participate in activities at work and home.7 And it’s not just ordinary fatigue —multidimensional cancer-related fatigue impacts physical, emotional, and cognitive domains and is inversely associated with return to work, but fortunately responds to physical exercise.6,9,10 Because the psychological aspects of cancer related to visible signs of active treatment (e.g., surgery scars, chemotherapy-induced hair loss, radiation burns) and hidden feelings (e.g., sadness, anxiety, depression) may linger long after the end of treatment, strategies that include counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and stress-reduction techniques can help boost productivity and quality of life.12

Thriving together

What else can be done to improve cancer outcomes? Families, providers, and employers can facilitate conversations about healthy lifestyle changes to help people address modifiable risk factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and sedentary lifestyles, all of which may cut the risk of dying from cancer by 30% to 50%.2 Companies and insurers can incentivize wellness programs in the workplace to motivate employees to take positive steps and mitigate potential downtime. And early detection helps prevent disease progression and improve survival by following screening recommendations as appropriate for age, family history, and environmental or occupational risk factors.

There are currently more than 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States,3 and nearly 44 million people around the world are estimated to survive their cancer diagnosis by at least five years.1 There are more people living with, struggling against, and triumphing over cancer around you than you could ever imagine … and by recognizing the commonality of the cancer experience, we can remove its stigma and empower patients to reach out for, and receive, support when they need it the most.12 The war against cancer is both personal and global, and at MDGuidelines we are proud to be a part of it.


  1. “Latest Global Cancer Data: Cancer Burden Rises to 18.1 Million New Cases and 9.6 Million Cancer Deaths in 2018.” International Agency for Research on Cancer: Press Release No. 263. 12 Sep. 2018. World Health Organization. 4 Feb. 2019.
  2. “Cancer.” World Health Organization. 2019. WHO. 4 Feb. 2019.
  3. “Cancer Statistics.” National Cancer Institute. 2019. National Institutes of Health. 4 Feb. 2019.
  4. “Cancer Facts & Figures 2018.” American Cancer Society. 2019. American Cancer Society, Inc. 4 Feb. 2019.
  5. Siegel, R.L., K.D. Miller, and A. Jemal. “Cancer Statistics, 2018.” CA Cancer J Clin. 68 7 (2018): 7-30.
  6. Leensen, M.C.J., et al. “Return to Work of Cancer Patients After a Multidisciplinary Intervention Including Occupational Counselling and Physical Exercise in Cancer Patients: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands.” BMJ Open. 2017. 4 Feb. 2019.
  7. Mbengi, R.K., et al. “Barriers and Opportunities for Return-to-work of Cancer Survivors: Time for Action—Rapid Review and Expert Consultation.” Syst Rev. 5 (2016): 35.
  8. Kamal, K.M., et al. “A Systematic Review of the Effect of Cancer Treatment on Work Productivity of Patients and Caregivers.” JMCP. 23 2 (2017): 136-162.
  9. Wolvers, M.D.J., et al. “Longitudinal Associations Between Fatigue and Perceived Work Ability in Cancer Survivors.” J Occup Rehabil. 4 Feb. 2019.
  10. Kessels, E., O. Husson, and C.M. van der Feltz-Cornelis. “The Effect of Exercise on Cancer-related Fatigue in Cancer Survivors: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 14 (2018): 479-494.
  11. Grassi, L., D. Spiegel, and M. Riba. “Advancing Psychosocial Care in Cancer Patients.” F1000Res. 6 (2017): 2083. 4 Feb. 2019.
  12. Knapp, S., A. Marziliano, and A. Moyer. “Identity Threat and Stigma in Cancer Patients.” Health Psychol Open. 1 1 (2014): 2055102914552281. 4 Feb. 2019.


Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide medical advice. ReedGroup does not provide medical services. Consult a physician for medical advice on this or any other topic.
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