Clinical Claims Innovation Lab focus: Cancer

There’s encouraging news in cancer treatments, yet mental wellness concerns persist

Early diagnosis and treatments for all types of cancers have come a long way in the past decade and are accelerating daily. Treatments target the cancerous cells and/or help manage symptoms and minimize side effects. Today, many people with cancer seek medical care while remaining productive at work. Yet despite these advances, being diagnosed with cancer takes a toll on an individual’s mental wellness.

Our Clinical Claims Innovation Lab for Cancer proved that members with cancer should receive mental wellness support

Sun Life’s Clinical Claims Innovation Lab focused on members with cancer. Within case notes and conversations, it became clear that even for members who expect full recovery, being diagnosed with cancer can create feelings of anxiety and leave them feeling overwhelmed, and even depressed if they don’t have support for their mental wellbeing.

Sun Life is bringing clinical mental wellness intervention to members receiving benefits for cancer

In response to the significant need for mental health intervention, Sun Life partners with AbleTo to offer virtual behavioral health support services to Sun Life disability and critical illness members receiving benefits due to a cancer diagnosis. 

Participants receive:

  • A personalized 8-week program tailored to their needs and goals
  • Private, one-on-one weekly sessions with a licensed AbleTo therapist via phone or video
  • Weekly sessions with a highly trained and experienced AbleTo behavioral coach via phone or video
  • Easy-to-use digital tools designed to help manage stress and anxiety that they can use between sessions and after the program ends.

The program is initiated as soon as an eligible member is approved for Short-Term Disability (employer must also have Long-Term Disability) or a Critical Illness cancer benefit, to give them fast access to licensed therapists and coaching, all of which contribute to more effectively managing their diagnosis and treatment plan.

Enrollment in the program is completely optional and does not affect the status of the member’s Sun Life claim or future eligibility.

Listen as Sheila Weiss, RN, AVP, Group Claims and Clinical Services, Sun Life U.S., explains the AbleTo partnership and why this intervention is important. 

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A cancer diagnosis no longer means the complete loss of function as it once did.

When cancer treatment is working, the doctor may say the cancer is in remission. A partial remission occurs when the cancer shrinks but doesn’t disappear. A complete remission means there is no longer any sign of cancer. We have provided definitions of stages of cancer as well as diagnostic tests and measures here

Although some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can be unpleasant and sometimes have serious side effects, recent advances have resulted in many drugs and radiation treatments that are much better tolerated than in the past. As a result, symptoms like severe nausea and vomiting and tissue damage, any of which could impede an individual’s ability to work, are less common.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cells and radiation kills or slows growth of cancer. However, in the process, both treatments can also harm healthy cells. Newer drugs, called targeted drugs, block genes or proteins found in the cancer cells. Targeted drugs (unlike chemotherapy) usually causes less harm to healthy cells. Immunotherapy uses hormones and other drugs that work with your immune system to treat cancer. 

When an employee files a claim for disability insurance, we evaluate their medical situation and reference performance scales to evaluate ability to work. This may feel counterintuitive to managers who want to help employees get benefits immediately. Consistent with Sun Life’s Work is Healthy philosophy, employees often want to contribute, and work can bring them routine normalcy, and community. Having access to a part-time work structure and a return-to-work plan helps both employees and employers.

Everyone’s treatment experience is different. Some people with cancer are able to continue their normal routine, including going to work, while they’re still in treatment. Others find that they need more rest or are just too sick. Cancer can make a person feel isolated and lonely and being around people can be comforting and it provides a welcome distraction. Accommodations such as flexible schedules, job restructuring, period rest breaks, or work from home can be beneficial for many employees with cancer. Learn more ways employers can help.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can make a person feel anxious and overwhelmed. Without counseling, this can lead to a secondary mental health concern that can limit a person’s recovery or their ability to live their fullest life. 

Read how Sun Life partners with AbleTo to bring optional virtual behavioral health therapy to members receiving benefits for cancer. 

Your employee shares that they have cancer. How can you help? 

  • Employee Assistance Program

    Employers can support employees experiencing cancer symptoms by reminding them of their EAP or other employee benefits programs that support their mental health and recovery


    Learn more

This advertisement is not approved for use in AZ

Program participation is available to members who are currently receiving Short-Term Disability benefit payments for cancer; or who are approved for a Critical Illness cancer benefit (with a cancer benefit payment date on or after March 1, 2022) are eligible for the program. Employers must have both Sun Life Short- and Long-Term Disability or have Sun Life Critical Illness.

In New York, the AbleTo service is not available with standalone Critical Illness policies.

Group insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Wellesley Hills, MA) in all states, except New York, under Policy Form Series 93P-LH, 15-GP-01, 12-DI-C-01, 12-GPPort-P-01, 12-STDPort-C-01, 16-DI-C-01, TDBPOLICY-2006, and TDI-POLICY. In New York, group insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life and Health Insurance Company (U.S.) (Lansing, MI) under Policy Form Series 15-GP-01, 13-GP-LH-01, 13-LTD-C-01, 13-STD-C-01, 06P-NY-DBL, 12-GPPort-01, and 12-STDPort-C-01. Product offerings may not be available in all states and may vary depending on state laws and regulations. The group insurance policies described in this advertisement provide disability income insurance only. They do NOT provide basic hospital, basic medical, or major medical insurance as defined by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

SLPC 31680 6/22 (Exp 6/24)