Survey: Cancer Patients Report Paid Leave Improves Their Ability to Complete Treatment, Manage Symptoms and Mitigate Financial Hardship

December 14, 2017

Washington, D.C., December 14, 2017—The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) released a first-of-its-kind survey today assessing the impact of paid medical leave on cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. The survey of more than 800 people affected by cancer revealed those with paid leave overwhelmingly said it had a positive effect on their physical and financial health.

Among patients and survivors who said they used paid medical leave, 80 percent said it helped them complete their treatment; 70 percent said it helped them manage side effects or symptoms; and 64 percent said paid leave helped them afford their treatments.

“Having access to paid leave is important when thinking about the entirety of cancer patients’ needs,” said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN. “Cancer is an incredibly intense, time consuming and costly disease. Being able to take time off to receive and complete necessary treatment, or to care for a loved one undergoing treatment, without sacrificing one’s career, or overall economic well-being makes a difference.”

About half of patients and survivors surveyed said they had access to paid medical/family leave, a benefit that allows for extended time off from work beyond standard “sick days.” Only 4 in 10 (43 percent) of caregivers said they had access to paid leave; among those who did, nearly 60 percent said it improved their ability to go to a loved one’s doctor or treatment appointments and improved their overall ability to care for their loved one. Forty percent said paid leave had a positive impact on their own health during their caregiving.

According to the survey, those working for large employers and earning higher salaries were most likely to have access to paid leave. For instance, 66 percent of patients and survivors who worked for companies with 1,000 or more employees reported having paid medical leave versus just 34 percent of those who work for employers with fewer than 100 workers.

“The issue is that those who work for small employers or have lower wage jobs are more likely to need that leave and have fewer resources available to compensate if they don’t have access to it,” said Hansen.

Of those surveyed who used any sort of leave, 81 percent of patients and 95 percent of survivors and caregivers said they returned to work with their same employer after finishing their leave, pointing to the potential employer benefit in providing such leave.

Public Opinion Strategies conducted the survey from September 18-29. For the full results visit:


ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit

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