As an RN and disability claims leader, I can tell you: People with cancer need mental health support
Clinically, I often share that a cancer diagnosis raises anxiety and can often result in depression. That is a fact, and yet it doesn’t fully communicate what living with cancer is like. As a leader of a disability clinical claim organization, I hear from our case managers that cancer patients routinely share how jarring it is to be diagnosed.
People with cancer have their lives change fast as they swap work time for treatment consultations, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, trips to the pharmacy, and more. While they manage their treatments, which often come with unpleasant side effects, they become tired and stressed, and can struggle to keep the steady stream of “what if” scenarios in check.
October is breast cancer awareness month. Both cancer.org and the CDC agree that breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in the U.S., behind some kinds of skin cancer, representing 1 in 3 of all new female cancers each year.
We see this statistic played out similarly among individuals who need to step away from work due to cancer. In 2022, breast cancer represented 19% of Sun Life Short Term Disability cancer claims – the highest of all cancer types. Breast cancer was also the third leading type of Long-Term Disability cancer claims. Invasive cancer and cancer in situ, in general, are among the top three reasons a Critical Illness benefit was paid in 2022 – paid in frequency higher than heart attack or stroke.
We want to do our part to raise awareness, encourage preventive screenings and early diagnoses to save lives. And we want to help individuals with cancer cope. Because the good news in these numbers is that more diagnoses mean earlier detection and a higher chance of survival.
At Sun Life we offer members who are receiving Short-Term Disability or Critical Illness benefits for cancer, access to AbleTo Virtual Behavioral Health Therapy and Coaching. This means live, weekly consultations with a therapist, followed up with talk time with a behavioral coach, and on demand access to digital wellness resources and tools designed to meet the individual’s most pressing mental health needs. You can read more about these efforts and eligibility here. Early results among program graduates are promising, showing a reduction in reported symptoms related to depression, anxiety, and stress.
As one program graduate wrote, “They allowed me to manage my time very well, practice self care, maintain positive attitudes and relationships. They helped me to look at life in a meaningful way no matter the circumstances.”
Cancer is a frequent diagnosis, and it is scary, jarring, and disruptive, to say the least. We encourage all people navigating cancer to pursue mental health support, whether it’s through their medical plan or their EAP, and if they need disability income, through their disability provider.
In all states except New York, group insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Wellesley Hills, MA). In New York, group insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life and Health Insurance Company (U.S.) (Lansing, MI).
DIWC-2034 #1231754604 10/23 (Exp 10/25)