National / Science & Health

80% of cancer or heart patients in Japan worked from hospital: survey

Kyodo

More than 80 percent of cancer or heart patients surveyed in Japan worked in some form while being hospitalized for treatment, health ministry data shows.

Nearly 82 percent of 1,030 cancer or heart patients surveyed by the ministry said they worked from the hospital, including making job-related reports and preparations to return to their offices.

The results of the ministry’s first large-scale survey of its kind, which has not been publicly disclosed, suggest it is difficult for many patients to concentrate on treatment.

While the government promotes the need to balance work and treatment such as through telework, some experts have urged that a better environment be created.

“I think the survey is correctly reflecting the reality,” said Naomi Sakurai, a director of the Cancer Survivors Recruiting Project, an organization supporting workers receiving cancer treatment.

“Patients may think they’ve caused trouble to their workplaces and think they must work even in the hospital, but they shouldn’t forget that they should prioritize treatment,” Sakurai said.

The ministry’s survey, covering people between ages 20 and 64 who were hospitalized in the past five years, was carried out between last December and March this year in 25 major hospitals.

It showed 91.1 percent had used smartphones to do their work from locations including common spaces at hospitals or their rooms.

Of about 860,000 people diagnosed with cancer in 2013, about 250,000, or a third of the total, were between 20 and 64 — the working population.

A man in his 50s, who was hospitalized for a few weeks to treat cancer, had communicated with his colleagues almost every day via email after he became better post-surgery.

“Many patients who suffer the disease are at the age when they are serving in responsible positions at work,” he said. “It’s nice that there is an environment that allows us to work.”

But working while the patient is still undergoing treatment can be a challenge.

“Hospitals should be a place where patients concentrate on their treatment. If there is an environment for patients to work there, people might push themselves too hard,” said a woman in her 40s who was admitted to a hospital for a few days for cancer and has been seeing a doctor every three months after she was discharged.